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    Breaking dawn 4) stephenie meyer prdp Breaking dawn 4) stephenie meyer prdp Document Transcript

    • 2 Copyright © 2008 by Stephenie MeyerAll rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Little, Brown and Company Hachette Book Group USA 237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Visit our Web site at www.lb-teens.com First eBook Edition: August 2008 Little, Brown and Company is a division of Hachette Book Group USA, Inc.The Little, Brown name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group USA, Inc. Epigraph for Book Three from Empire by Orson Scott Card. A Tor Book. Published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC. Copyright © 2006 by Orson Scott Card. Reprinted with permission of the author.The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author. ISBN: 978-0-316-03283-4
    • 3 AcknowledgmentsThis book is dedicated to my ninja/agent, Jodi Reamer. Thank you for keeping me off the ledge. And thanks also to my favorite band, the very aptly named Muse, for providing a saga’s worth of inspiration.
    • 4BOOK ONE bellaCONTENTS PREFACE 1. ENGAGED 2. LONG NIGHT 3. BIG DAY 4. GESTURE 5. ISLE ESME6. DISTRACTION 7. UNEXPECTED
    • 5Childhood is not from birth to a certain age and at a certain ageThe child is grown, and puts away childish things.Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies. Edna St. Vincent Millay
    • 6 PREFACEI’d had more than my fair share of near-death experiences; it wasn’t somethingyou ever really got used to.It seemed oddly inevitable, though, facing death again. Like I really was markedfor disaster. I’d escaped time and time again, but it kept coming back for me.Still, this time was so different from the others.You could run from someone you feared, you could try to fight someone youhated. All my reactions were geared toward those kinds of killers—the monsters,the enemies.When you loved the one who was killing you, it left you no options. How couldyou run, how could you fight, when doing so would hurt that beloved one? If yourlife was all you had to give your beloved, how could you not give it?If it was someone you truly loved?
    • 7 1. ENGAGEDNo one is staring at you, I promised myself. No one is staring at you. No one isstaring at you.But, because I couldn’t lie convincingly even to myself, I had to check.As I sat waiting for one of the three traffic lights in town to turn green, I peekedto the right—in her minivan, Mrs. Weber had turned her whole torso in mydirection. Her eyes bored into mine, and I flinched back, wondering why shedidn’t drop her gaze or look ashamed. It was still considered rude to stare atpeople, wasn’t it? Didn’t that apply to me anymore?Then I remembered that these windows were so darkly tinted that she probablyhad no idea if it was even me in here, let alone that I’d caught her looking. I triedto take some comfort in the fact that she wasn’t really staring at me, just the car.My car. Sigh.I glanced to the left and groaned. Two pedestrians were frozen on the sidewalk,missing their chance to cross as they stared. Behind them, Mr. Marshall wasgawking through the plate-glass window of his little souvenir shop. At least hedidn’t have his nose pressed up against the glass. Yet.The light turned green and, in my hurry to escape, I stomped on the gas pedalwithout thinking—the normal way I would have punched it to get my ancientChevy truck moving.Engine snarling like a hunting panther, the car jolted forward so fast that mybody slammed into the black leather seat and my stomach flattened against myspine.“Arg!” I gasped as I fumbled for the brake. Keeping my head, I merely tapped thepedal. The car lurched to an absolute standstill anyway.I couldn’t bear to look around at the reaction. If there had been any doubt as towho was driving this car before, it was gone now. With the toe of my shoe, Igently nudged the gas pedal down one half millimeter, and the car shot forwardagain.I managed to reach my goal, the gas station. If I hadn’t been running on vapors, Iwouldn’t have come into town at all. I was going without a lot of things thesedays, like Pop-Tarts and shoelaces, to avoid spending time in public.Moving as if I were in a race, I got the hatch open, the cap off, the card scanned,and the nozzle in the tank within seconds. Of course, there was nothing I could do
    • 8to make the numbers on the gauge pick up the pace. They ticked by sluggishly,almost as if they were doing it just to annoy me.It wasn’t bright out—a typical drizzly day in Forks, Washington—but I still feltlike a spotlight was trained on me, drawing attention to the delicate ring on myleft hand. At times like this, sensing the eyes on my back, it felt as if the ring werepulsing like a neon sign: Look at me, look at me.It was stupid to be so self-conscious, and I knew that. Besides my dad and mom,did it really matter what people were saying about my engagement? About mynew car? About my mysterious acceptance into an Ivy League college? About theshiny black credit card that felt red-hot in my back pocket right now?“Yeah, who cares what they think,” I muttered under my breath.“Um, miss?” a man’s voice called.I turned, and then wished I hadn’t.Two men stood beside a fancy SUV with brand-new kayaks tied to the top.Neither of them was looking at me; they both were staring at the car.Personally, I didn’t get it. But then, I was just proud I could distinguish betweenthe symbols for Toyota, Ford, and Chevy. This car was glossy black, sleek, andpretty, but it was still just a car to me.“I’m sorry to bother you, but could you tell me what kind of car you’re driving?”the tall one asked.“Um, a Mercedes, right?”“Yes,” the man said politely while his shorter friend rolled his eyes at my answer.“I know. But I was wondering, is that… are you driving a Mercedes Guardian?”The man said the name with reverence. I had a feeling this guy would get alongwell with Edward Cullen, my… my fiancé (there really was no getting around thattruth with the wedding just days away). “They aren’t supposed to be available inEurope yet,” the man went on, “let alone here.”While his eyes traced the contours of my car—it didn’t look much different fromany other Mercedes sedan to me, but what did I know?—I briefly contemplatedmy issues with words like fiancé, wedding, husband, etc.I just couldn’t put it together in my head.On the one hand, I had been raised to cringe at the very thought of poofy whitedresses and bouquets. But more than that, I just couldn’t reconcile a staid,respectable, dull concept like husband with my concept of Edward. It was like
    • 9casting an archangel as an accountant; I couldn’t visualize him in anycommonplace role.Like always, as soon as I started thinking about Edward I was caught up in a dizzyspin of fantasies. The stranger had to clear his throat to get my attention; he wasstill waiting for an answer about the car’s make and model.“I don’t know,” I told him honestly.“Do you mind if I take a picture with it?”It took me a second to process that. “Really? You want to take a picture with thecar?”“Sure—nobody is going to believe me if I don’t get proof.”“Um. Okay. Fine.”I swiftly put away the nozzle and crept into the front seat to hide while theenthusiast dug a huge professional-looking camera out of his backpack. He andhis friend took turns posing by the hood, and then they went to take pictures atthe back end.“I miss my truck,” I whimpered to myself.Very, very convenient—too convenient—that my truck would wheeze its lastwheeze just weeks after Edward and I had agreed to our lopsided compromise,one detail of which was that he be allowed to replace my truck when it passed on.Edward swore it was only to be expected; my truck had lived a long, full life andthen expired of natural causes. According to him. And, of course, I had no way toverify his story or to try to raise my truck from the dead on my own. My favoritemechanic—I stopped that thought cold, refusing to let it come to a conclusion. Instead, Ilistened to the men’s voices outside, muted by the car walls.“. . . went at it with a flamethrower in the online video. Didn’t even pucker thepaint.”“Of course not. You could roll a tank over this baby. Not much of a market for oneover here. Designed for Middle East diplomats, arms dealers, and drug lordsmostly.”“Think she’s something?” the short one asked in a softer voice. I ducked my head,cheeks flaming.
    • 10“Huh,” the tall one said. “Maybe. Can’t imagine what you’d need missile-proofglass and four thousand pounds of body armor for around here. Must be headedsomewhere more hazardous.”Body armor. Four thousand pounds of body armor. And missile-proof glass?Nice. What had happened to good old-fashioned bulletproof?Well, at least this made some sense—if you had a twisted sense of humor.It wasn’t like I hadn’t expected Edward to take advantage of our deal, to weight iton his side so that he could give so much more than he would receive. I’d agreedthat he could replace my truck when it needed replacing, not expecting thatmoment to come quite so soon, of course. When I’d been forced to admit that thetruck had become no more than a still-life tribute to classic Chevys on my curb, Iknew his idea of a replacement was probably going to embarrass me. Make methe focus of stares and whispers. I’d been right about that part. But even in mydarkest imaginings I had not foreseen that he would get me two cars.The “before” car and the “after” car, he’d explained when I’d flipped out.This was just the “before” car. He’d told me it was a loaner and promised that hewas returning it after the wedding. It all had made absolutely no sense to me.Until now.Ha ha. Because I was so fragilely human, so accident-prone, so much a victim tomy own dangerous bad luck, apparently I needed a tank-resistant car to keep mesafe. Hilarious. I was sure he and his brothers had enjoyed the joke quite a bitbehind my back.Or maybe, just maybe, a small voice whispered in my head, it’s not a joke, silly.Maybe he’s really that worried about you. This wouldn’t be the first time he’sgone a little overboard trying to protect you.I sighed.I hadn’t seen the “after” car yet. It was hidden under a sheet in the deepest cornerof the Cullens’ garage. I knew most people would have peeked by now, but I reallydidn’t want to know.Probably no body armor on that car—because I wouldn’t need it after thehoneymoon. Virtual indestructibility was just one of the many perks I waslooking forward to. The best parts about being a Cullen were not expensive carsand impressive credit cards.“Hey,” the tall man called, cupping his hands to the glass in an effort to peer in.“We’re done now. Thanks a lot!”
    • 11“You’re welcome,” I called back, and then tensed as I started the engine and easedthe pedal—ever so gently—down. . . .No matter how many times I drove down the familiar road home, I still couldn’tmake the rain-faded flyers fade into the background. Each one of them, stapled totelephone poles and taped to street signs, was like a fresh slap in the face. A well-deserved slap in the face. My mind was sucked back into the thought I’dinterrupted so immediately before. I couldn’t avoid it on this road. Not withpictures of my favorite mechanic flashing past me at regular intervals.My best friend. My Jacob.The HAVE YOU SEEN THIS BOY? posters were not Jacob’s father’s idea. It had beenmy father, Charlie, who’d printed up the flyers and spread them all over town.And not just Forks, but Port Angeles and Sequim and Hoquiam and Aberdeenand every other town in the Olympic Peninsula. He’d made sure that all the policestations in the state of Washington had the same flyer hanging on the wall, too.His own station had a whole corkboard dedicated to finding Jacob. A corkboardthat was mostly empty, much to his disappointment and frustration.My dad was disappointed with more than the lack of response. He was mostdisappointed with Billy, Jacob’s father—and Charlie’s closest friend.For Billy’s not being more involved with the search for his sixteen-year-old“runaway.” For Billy’s refusing to put up the flyers in La Push, the reservation onthe coast that was Jacob’s home. For his seeming resigned to Jacob’sdisappearance, as if there was nothing he could do. For his saying, “Jacob’sgrown up now. He’ll come home if he wants to.”And he was frustrated with me, for taking Billy’s side.I wouldn’t put up posters, either. Because both Billy and I knew where Jacob was,roughly speaking, and we also knew that no one had seen this boy.The flyers put the usual big, fat lump in my throat, the usual stinging tears in myeyes, and I was glad Edward was out hunting this Saturday. If Edward saw myreaction, it would only make him feel terrible, too.Of course, there were drawbacks to it being Saturday. As I turned slowly andcarefully onto my street, I could see my dad’s police cruiser in the driveway of ourhome. He’d skipped fishing again today. Still sulking about the wedding.So I wouldn’t be able to use the phone inside. But I had to call. . . .I parked on the curb behind the Chevy sculpture and pulled the cell phoneEdward had given me for emergencies out of the glove compartment. I dialed,keeping my finger on the “end” button as the phone rang. Just in case.
    • 12“Hello?” Seth Clearwater answered, and I sighed in relief. I was way too chickento speak to his older sister, Leah. The phrase “bite my head off” was not entirely afigure of speech when it came to Leah.“Hey, Seth, it’s Bella.”“Oh, hiya, Bella! How are you?”Choked up. Desperate for reassurance. “Fine.”“Calling for an update?”“You’re psychic.”“Not hardly. I’m no Alice—you’re just predictable,” he joked. Among the Quileutepack down at La Push, only Seth was comfortable even mentioning the Cullens byname, let alone joking about things like my nearly omniscient sister-in-law-to-be.“I know I am.” I hesitated for a minute. “How is he?”Seth sighed. “Same as ever. He won’t talk, though we know he hears us. He’strying not to think human, you know. Just going with his instincts.”“Do you know where he is now?”“Somewhere in northern Canada. I can’t tell you which province. He doesn’t paymuch attention to state lines.”“Any hint that he might . . .”“He’s not coming home, Bella. Sorry.”I swallowed. “S’okay, Seth. I knew before I asked. I just can’t help wishing.”“Yeah. We all feel the same way.”“Thanks for putting up with me, Seth. I know the others must give you a hardtime.”“They’re not your hugest fans,” he agreed cheerfully. “Kind of lame, I think. Jacobmade his choices, you made yours. Jake doesn’t like their attitude about it.’Course, he isn’t super thrilled that you’re checking up on him, either.”I gasped. “I thought he wasn’t talking to you?”“He can’t hide everything from us, hard as he’s trying.”
    • 13So Jacob knew I was worried. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. Well, at least heknew I hadn’t skipped off into the sunset and forgotten him completely. He mighthave imagined me capable of that.“I guess I’ll see you at the… wedding,” I said, forcing the word out through myteeth.“Yeah, me and my mom will be there. It was cool of you to ask us.”I smiled at the enthusiasm in his voice. Though inviting the Clearwaters had beenEdward’s idea, I was glad he’d thought of it. Having Seth there would be nice—alink, however tenuous, to my missing best man. “It wouldn’t be the same withoutyou.”“Tell Edward I said hi, ’kay?”“Sure thing.”I shook my head. The friendship that had sprung up between Edward and Sethwas something that still boggled my mind. It was proof, though, that things didn’thave to be this way. That vampires and werewolves could get along just fine,thank you very much, if they were of a mind to.Not everybody liked this idea.“Ah,” Seth said, his voice cracking up an octave. “Er, Leah’s home.”“Oh! Bye!”The phone went dead. I left it on the seat and prepared myself mentally to goinside the house, where Charlie would be waiting.My poor dad had so much to deal with right now. Jacob-the-runaway was justone of the straws on his overburdened back. He was almost as worried about me,his barely-a-legal-adult daughter who was about to become a Mrs. in just a fewdays’ time.I walked slowly through the light rain, remembering the night we’d told him. . . .As the sound of Charlie’s cruiser announced his return, the ring suddenlyweighed a hundred pounds on my finger. I wanted to shove my left hand in apocket, or maybe sit on it, but Edward’s cool, firm grasp kept it front and center.“Stop fidgeting, Bella. Please try to remember that you’re not confessing to amurder here.”“Easy for you to say.”
    • 14I listened to the ominous sound of my father’s boots clomping up the sidewalk.The key rattled in the already open door. The sound reminded me of that part ofthe horror movie when the victim realizes she’s forgotten to lock her deadbolt.“Calm down, Bella,” Edward whispered, listening to the acceleration of my heart.The door slammed against the wall, and I flinched like I’d been Tasered.“Hey, Charlie,” Edward called, entirely relaxed.“No!” I protested under my breath.“What?” Edward whispered back.“Wait till he hangs his gun up!”Edward chuckled and ran his free hand through his tousled bronze hair.Charlie came around the corner, still in his uniform, still armed, and tried not tomake a face when he spied us sitting together on the loveseat. Lately, he’d beenputting forth a lot of effort to like Edward more. Of course, this revelation wassure to end that effort immediately.“Hey, kids. What’s up?”“We’d like to talk to you,” Edward said, so serene. “We have some good news.”Charlie’s expression went from strained friendliness to black suspicion in asecond.“Good news?” Charlie growled, looking straight at me.“Have a seat, Dad.”He raised one eyebrow, stared at me for five seconds, then stomped to therecliner and sat down on the very edge, his back ramrod straight.“Don’t get worked up, Dad,” I said after a moment of loaded silence.“Everything’s okay.”Edward grimaced, and I knew it was in objection to the word okay. He probablywould have used something more like wonderful or perfect or glorious.“Sure it is, Bella, sure it is. If everything is so great, then why are you sweatingbullets?”“I’m not sweating,” I lied.
    • 15I leaned away from his fierce scowl, cringing into Edward, and instinctively wipedthe back of my right hand across my forehead to remove the evidence.“You’re pregnant!” Charlie exploded. “You’re pregnant, aren’t you?”Though the question was clearly meant for me, he was glaring at Edward now,and I could have sworn I saw his hand twitch toward the gun.“No! Of course I’m not!” I wanted to elbow Edward in the ribs, but I knew thatmove would only give me a bruise. I’d told Edward that people wouldimmediately jump to this conclusion! What other possible reason would sanepeople have for getting married at eighteen? (His answer then had made me rollmy eyes. Love. Right.)Charlie’s glower lightened a shade. It was usually pretty clear on my face when Iwas telling the truth, and he believed me now. “Oh. Sorry.”“Apology accepted.”There was a long pause. After a moment, I realized everyone was waiting for meto say something. I looked up at Edward, panic-stricken. There was no way I wasgoing to get the words out.He smiled at me and then squared his shoulders and turned to my father.“Charlie, I realize that I’ve gone about this out of order. Traditionally, I shouldhave asked you first. I mean no disrespect, but since Bella has already said yesand I don’t want to diminish her choice in the matter, instead of asking you forher hand, I’m asking you for your blessing. We’re getting married, Charlie. I loveher more than anything in the world, more than my own life, and—by somemiracle—she loves me that way, too. Will you give us your blessing?”He sounded so sure, so calm. For just an instant, listening to the absoluteconfidence in his voice, I experienced a rare moment of insight. I could see,fleetingly, the way the world looked to him. For the length of one heartbeat, thisnews made perfect sense.And then I caught sight of the expression on Charlie’s face, his eyes now lockedon the ring.I held my breath while his skin changed colors—fair to red, red to purple, purpleto blue. I started to get up—I’m not sure what I planned to do; maybe use theHeimlich maneuver to make sure he wasn’t choking—but Edward squeezed myhand and murmured “Give him a minute” so low that only I could hear.The silence was much longer this time. Then, gradually, shade by shade, Charlie’scolor returned to normal. His lips pursed, and his eyebrows furrowed; I
    • 16recognized his “deep in thought” expression. He studied the two of us for a longmoment, and I felt Edward relax at my side.“Guess I’m not that surprised,” Charlie grumbled. “Knew I’d have to deal withsomething like this soon enough.”I exhaled.“You sure about this?” Charlie demanded, glaring at me.“I’m one hundred percent sure about Edward,” I told him without missing a beat.“Getting married, though? What’s the rush?” He eyed me suspiciously again.The rush was due to the fact that I was getting closer to nineteen every stinkingday, while Edward stayed frozen in all his seventeen-year-old perfection, as hehad for over ninety years. Not that this fact necessitated marriage in my book,but the wedding was required due to the delicate and tangled compromiseEdward and I had made to finally get to this point, the brink of mytransformation from mortal to immortal.These weren’t things I could explain to Charlie.“We’re going away to Dartmouth together in the fall, Charlie,” Edward remindedhim. “I’d like to do that, well, the right way. It’s how I was raised.” He shrugged.He wasn’t exaggerating; they’d been big on old-fashioned morals during WorldWar I.Charlie’s mouth twisted to the side. Looking for an angle to argue from. But whatcould he say? I’d prefer you live in sin first? He was a dad; his hands were tied.“Knew this was coming,” he muttered to himself, frowning. Then, suddenly, hisface went perfectly smooth and blank.“Dad?” I asked anxiously. I glanced at Edward, but I couldn’t read his face, either,as he watched Charlie.“Ha!” Charlie exploded. I jumped in my seat. “Ha, ha, ha!”I stared incredulously as Charlie doubled over in laughter; his whole body shookwith it.I looked at Edward for a translation, but Edward had his lips pressed tightlytogether, like he was trying to hold back laughter himself.
    • 17“Okay, fine,” Charlie choked out. “Get married.” Another roll of laughter shookthrough him. “But . . .”“But what?” I demanded.“But you have to tell your mom! I’m not saying one word to Renée! That’s allyours!” He busted into loud guffaws.I paused with my hand on the doorknob, smiling. Sure, at the time, Charlie’swords had terrified me. The ultimate doom: telling Renée. Early marriage washigher up on her blacklist than boiling live puppies.Who could have foreseen her response? Not me. Certainly not Charlie. MaybeAlice, but I hadn’t thought to ask her.“Well, Bella,” Renée had said after I’d choked and stuttered out the impossiblewords: Mom, I’m marrying Edward. “I’m a little miffed that you waited so longto tell me. Plane tickets only get more expensive. Oooh,” she’d fretted. “Do youthink Phil’s cast will be off by then? It will spoil the pictures if he’s not in a tux—”“Back up a second, Mom.” I’d gasped. “What do you mean, waited so long? I justgot en-en . . .”—I’d been unable to force out the word engaged—“things settled,you know, today.”“Today? Really? That is a surprise. I assumed . . .”“What did you assume? When did you assume?”“Well, when you came to visit me in April, it looked like things were pretty muchsewn up, if you know what I mean. You’re not very hard to read, sweetie. But Ididn’t say anything because I knew it wouldn’t do any good. You’re exactly likeCharlie.” She’d sighed, resigned. “Once you make up your mind, there is noreasoning with you. Of course, exactly like Charlie, you stick by your decisions,too.”And then she’d said the last thing that I’d ever expected to hear from my mother.“You’re not making my mistakes, Bella. You sound like you’re scared silly, andI’m guessing it’s because you’re afraid of me.” She’d giggled. “Of what I’m goingto think. And I know I’ve said a lot of things about marriage and stupidity—andI’m not taking them back—but you need to realize that those things specificallyapplied to me. You’re a completely different person than I am. You make yourown kinds of mistakes, and I’m sure you’ll have your share of regrets in life. Butcommitment was never your problem, sweetie. You have a better chance ofmaking this work than most forty-year-olds I know.” Renée had laughed again.“My little middle-aged child. Luckily, you seem to have found another old soul.”
    • 18“You’re not… mad? You don’t think I’m making a humongous mistake?”“Well, sure, I wish you’d wait a few more years. I mean, do I look old enough tobe a mother-in-law to you? Don’t answer that. But this isn’t about me. This isabout you. Are you happy?”“I don’t know. I’m having an out-of-body experience right now.”Renée had chuckled. “Does he make you happy, Bella?”“Yes, but—”“Are you ever going to want anyone else?”“No, but—”“But what?”“But aren’t you going to say that I sound exactly like every other infatuatedteenager since the dawn of time?”“You’ve never been a teenager, sweetie. You know what’s best for you.”For the last few weeks, Renée had unexpectedly immersed herself in weddingplans. She’d spent hours every day on the phone with Edward’s mother, Esme—no worries about the in-laws getting along. Renée adored Esme, but then, Idoubted anyone could help responding that way to my lovable almost-mother-in-law.It let me right off the hook. Edward’s family and my family were taking care ofthe nuptials together without my having to do or know or think too hard aboutany of it.Charlie was furious, of course, but the sweet part was that he wasn’t furious atme. Renée was the traitor. He’d counted on her to play the heavy. What could hedo now, when his ultimate threat—telling Mom—had turned out to be utterlyempty? He had nothing, and he knew it. So he moped around the house,muttering things about not being able to trust anyone in this world. . . .“Dad?” I called as I pushed open the front door. “I’m home.”“Hold on, Bells, stay right there.”“Huh?” I asked, pausing automatically.“Gimme a second. Ouch, you got me, Alice.”
    • 19Alice?“Sorry, Charlie,” Alice’s trilling voice responded. “How’s that?”“I’m bleeding on it.”“You’re fine. Didn’t break the skin—trust me.”“What’s going on?” I demanded, hesitating in the doorway.“Thirty seconds, please, Bella,” Alice told me. “Your patience will be rewarded.”“Humph,” Charlie added.I tapped my foot, counting each beat. Before I got to thirty, Alice said, “Okay,Bella, come in!”Moving with caution, I rounded the little corner into our living room.“Oh,” I huffed. “Aw. Dad. Don’t you look—”“Silly?” Charlie interrupted.“I was thinking more like debonair.”Charlie blushed. Alice took his elbow and tugged him around into a slow spin toshowcase the pale gray tux.“Now cut that out, Alice. I look like an idiot.”“No one dressed by me ever looks like an idiot.”“She’s right, Dad. You look fabulous! What’s the occasion?”Alice rolled her eyes. “It’s the final check on the fit. For both of you.”I peeled my gaze off the unusually elegant Charlie for the first time and saw thedreaded white garment bag laid carefully across the sofa.“Aaah.”“Go to your happy place, Bella. It won’t take long.”I sucked in a deep breath and closed my eyes. Keeping them shut, I stumbled myway up the stairs to my room. I stripped down to my underwear and held myarms straight out.
    • 20“You’d think I was shoving bamboo splinters under your nails,” Alice muttered toherself as she followed me in.I paid no attention to her. I was in my happy place.In my happy place, the whole wedding mess was over and done. Behind me.Already repressed and forgotten.We were alone, just Edward and me. The setting was fuzzy and constantly influx—it morphed from misty forest to cloud-covered city to arctic night—becauseEdward was keeping the location of our honeymoon a secret to surprise me. But Iwasn’t especially concerned about the where part.Edward and I were together, and I’d fulfilled my side of our compromiseperfectly. I’d married him. That was the big one. But I’d also accepted all hisoutrageous gifts and was registered, however futilely, to attend DartmouthCollege in the fall. Now it was his turn.Before he turned me into a vampire—his big compromise—he had one otherstipulation to make good on.Edward had an obsessive sort of concern over the human things that I would begiving up, the experiences he didn’t want me to miss. Most of them—like theprom, for example—seemed silly to me. There was only one human experience Iworried about missing. Of course it would be the one he wished I would forgetcompletely.Here was the thing, though. I knew a little about what I was going to be like whenI wasn’t human anymore. I’d seen newborn vampires firsthand, and I’d heard allmy family-to-be’s stories about those wild early days. For several years, mybiggest personality trait was going to be thirsty. It would take some time before Icould be me again. And even when I was in control of myself, I would never feelexactly the way I felt now.Human… and passionately in love.I wanted the complete experience before I traded in my warm, breakable,pheromone-riddled body for something beautiful, strong… and unknown. Iwanted a real honeymoon with Edward. And, despite the danger he feared thiswould put me in, he’d agreed to try.I was only vaguely aware of Alice and the slip and slide of satin over my skin. Ididn’t care, for the moment, that the whole town was talking about me. I didn’tthink about the spectacle I would have to star in much too soon. I didn’t worryabout tripping on my train or giggling at the wrong moment or being too youngor the staring audience or even the empty seat where my best friend should be.
    • 21I was with Edward in my happy place.
    • 22 2. LONG NIGHT“I miss you already.”“I don’t need to leave. I can stay. . . .”“Mmm.”It was quiet for a long moment, just the thud of my heart hammering, the brokenrhythm of our ragged breathing, and the whisper of our lips moving insynchronization.Sometimes it was so easy to forget that I was kissing a vampire. Not because heseemed ordinary or human—I could never for a second forget that I was holdingsomeone more angel than man in my arms—but because he made it seem likenothing at all to have his lips against my lips, my face, my throat. He claimed hewas long past the temptation my blood used to be for him, that the idea of losingme had cured him of any desire for it. But I knew the smell of my blood stillcaused him pain—still burned his throat like he was inhaling flames.I opened my eyes and found his open, too, staring at my face. It made no sensewhen he looked at me that way. Like I was the prize rather than the outrageouslylucky winner.Our gazes locked for a moment; his golden eyes were so deep that I imagined Icould see all the way into his soul. It seemed silly that this fact—the existence ofhis soul—had ever been in question, even if he was a vampire. He had the mostbeautiful soul, more beautiful than his brilliant mind or his incomparable face orhis glorious body.He looked back at me as if he could see my soul, too, and as if he liked what hesaw.He couldn’t see into my mind, though, the way he saw into everyone else’s. Whoknew why—some strange glitch in my brain that made it immune to all theextraordinary and frightening things some immortals could do. (Only my mindwas immune; my body was still subject to vampires with abilities that worked inways other than Edward’s.) But I was seriously grateful to whatever malfunctionit was that kept my thoughts a secret. It was just too embarrassing to consider thealternative.I pulled his face to mine again.“Definitely staying,” he murmured a moment later.“No, no. It’s your bachelor party. You have to go.”
    • 23I said the words, but the fingers of my right hand locked into his bronze hair, myleft pressed tighter against the small of his back. His cool hands stroked my face.“Bachelor parties are designed for those who are sad to see the passing of theirsingle days. I couldn’t be more eager to have mine behind me. So there’s really nopoint.”“True.” I breathed against the winter-cold skin of his throat.This was pretty close to my happy place. Charlie slept obliviously in his room,which was almost as good as being alone. We were curled up on my small bed,intertwined as much as it was possible, considering the thick afghan I wasswathed in like a cocoon. I hated the necessity of the blanket, but it sort of ruinedthe romance when my teeth started chattering. Charlie would notice if I turnedthe heat on in August. . . .At least, if I had to be bundled up, Edward’s shirt was on the floor. I never gotover the shock of how perfect his body was—white, cool, and polished as marble.I ran my hand down his stone chest now, tracing across the flat planes of hisstomach, just marveling. A light shudder rippled through him, and his mouthfound mine again. Carefully, I let the tip of my tongue press against his glass-smooth lip, and he sighed. His sweet breath washed—cold and delicious—over myface.He started to pull away—that was his automatic response whenever he decidedthings had gone too far, his reflex reaction whenever he most wanted to keepgoing. Edward had spent most of his life rejecting any kind of physicalgratification. I knew it was terrifying to him trying to change those habits now.“Wait,” I said, gripping his shoulders and hugging myself close to him. I kickedone leg free and wrapped it around his waist. “Practice makes perfect.”He chuckled. “Well, we should be fairly close to perfection by this point, then,shouldn’t we? Have you slept at all in the last month?”“But this is the dress rehearsal,” I reminded him, “and we’ve only practicedcertain scenes. It’s no time for playing safe.”I thought he would laugh, but he didn’t answer, and his body was motionless withsudden stress. The gold in his eyes seemed to harden from a liquid to a solid.I thought over my words, realized what he would have heard in them.“Bella…,” he whispered.“Don’t start this again,” I said. “A deal’s a deal.”
    • 24“I don’t know. It’s too hard to concentrate when you’re with me like this. I—Ican’t think straight. I won’t be able to control myself. You’ll get hurt.”“I’ll be fine.”“Bella . . .”“Shh!” I pressed my lips to his to stop his panic attack. I’d heard it before. Hewasn’t getting out of this deal. Not after insisting I marry him first.He kissed me back for a moment, but I could tell he wasn’t as into it as before.Worrying, always worrying. How different it would be when he didn’t need toworry about me anymore. What would he do with all his free time? He’d have toget a new hobby.“How are your feet?” he asked.Knowing he didn’t mean that literally, I answered, “Toasty warm.”“Really? No second thoughts? It’s not too late to change your mind.”“Are you trying to ditch me?”He chuckled. “Just making sure. I don’t want you to do anything you’re not sureabout.”“I’m sure about you. The rest I can live through.”He hesitated, and I wondered if I’d put my foot in my mouth again.“Can you?” he asked quietly. “I don’t mean the wedding—which I am positive youwill survive despite your qualms—but afterward… what about Renée, what aboutCharlie?”I sighed. “I’ll miss them.” Worse, that they would miss me, but I didn’t want togive him any fuel.“Angela and Ben and Jessica and Mike.”“I’ll miss my friends, too.” I smiled in the darkness. “Especially Mike. Oh, Mike!How will I go on?”He growled.I laughed but then was serious. “Edward, we’ve been through this and throughthis. I know it will be hard, but this is what I want. I want you, and I want youforever. One lifetime is simply not enough for me.”
    • 25“Frozen forever at eighteen,” he whispered.“Every woman’s dream come true,” I teased.“Never changing… never moving forward.”“What does that mean?”He answered slowly. “Do you remember when we told Charlie we were gettingmarried? And he thought you were… pregnant?”“And he thought about shooting you,” I guessed with a laugh. “Admit it—for onesecond, he honestly considered it.”He didn’t answer.“What, Edward?”“I just wish… well, I wish that he’d been right.”“Gah,” I gasped.“More that there was some way he could have been. That we had that kind ofpotential. I hate taking that away from you, too.”It took me a minute. “I know what I’m doing.”“How could you know that, Bella? Look at my mother, look at my sister. It’s notas easy a sacrifice as you imagine.”“Esme and Rosalie get by just fine. If it’s a problem later, we can do what Esmedid—we’ll adopt.”He sighed, and then his voice was fierce. “It’s not right! I don’t want you to haveto make sacrifices for me. I want to give you things, not take things away fromyou. I don’t want to steal your future. If I were human—”I put my hand over his lips. “You are my future. Now stop. No moping, or I’mcalling your brothers to come and get you. Maybe you need a bachelor party.”“I’m sorry. I am moping, aren’t I? Must be the nerves.”“Are your feet cold?”“Not in that sense. I’ve been waiting a century to marry you, Miss Swan. Thewedding ceremony is the one thing I can’t wait—” He broke off mid-thought. “Oh,for the love of all that’s holy!”
    • 26“What’s wrong?”He gritted his teeth. “You don’t have to call my brothers. Apparently Emmett andJasper are not going to let me bow out tonight.”I clutched him closer for one second and then released him. I didn’t have a prayerof winning a tug-of-war with Emmett. “Have fun.”There was a squeal against the window—someone deliberately scraping their steelnails across the glass to make a horrible, cover-your-ears, goose-bumps-down-your-spine noise. I shuddered.“If you don’t send Edward out,” Emmett—still invisible in the night—hissedmenacingly, “we’re coming in after him!”“Go,” I laughed. “Before they break my house.”Edward rolled his eyes, but he got to his feet in one fluid movement and had hisshirt back on in another. He leaned down and kissed my forehead.“Get to sleep. You’ve got a big day tomorrow.”“Thanks! That’s sure to help me wind down.”“I’ll meet you at the altar.”“I’ll be the one in white.” I smiled at how perfectly blasé I sounded.He chuckled, said, “Very convincing,” and then suddenly sank into a crouch, hismuscles coiled like a spring. He vanished—launching himself out my window tooswiftly for my eyes to follow.Outside, there was a muted thud, and I heard Emmett curse.“You’d better not make him late,” I murmured, knowing they could hear.And then Jasper’s face was peering in my window, his honey hair silver in theweak moonlight that worked through the clouds.“Don’t worry, Bella. We’ll get him home in plenty of time.”I was suddenly very calm, and my qualms all seemed unimportant. Jasper was, inhis own way, just as talented as Alice with her uncannily accurate predictions.Jasper’s medium was moods rather than the future, and it was impossible toresist feeling the way he wanted you to feel.
    • 27I sat up awkwardly, still tangled in my blanket. “Jasper? What do vampires do forbachelor parties? You’re not taking him to a strip club, are you?”“Don’t tell her anything!” Emmett growled from below. There was another thud,and Edward laughed quietly.“Relax,” Jasper told me—and I did. “We Cullens have our own version. Just a fewmountain lions, a couple of grizzly bears. Pretty much an ordinary night out.”I wondered if I would ever be able to sound so cavalier about the “vegetarian”vampire diet.“Thanks, Jasper.”He winked and dropped from sight.It was completely silent outside. Charlie’s muffled snores droned through thewalls.I lay back against my pillow, sleepy now. I stared at the walls of my little room,bleached pale in the moonlight, from under heavy lids.My last night in my room. My last night as Isabella Swan. Tomorrow night, Iwould be Bella Cullen. Though the whole marriage ordeal was a thorn in my side,I had to admit that I liked the sound of that.I let my mind wander idly for a moment, expecting sleep to take me. But, after afew minutes, I found myself more alert, anxiety creeping back into my stomach,twisting it into uncomfortable positions. The bed seemed too soft, too warmwithout Edward in it. Jasper was far away, and all the peaceful, relaxed feelingswere gone with him.It was going to be a very long day tomorrow.I was aware that most of my fears were stupid—I just had to get over myself.Attention was an inevitable part of life. I couldn’t always blend in with thescenery. However, I did have a few specific worries that were completely valid.First there was the wedding dress’s train. Alice clearly had let her artistic senseoverpower practicalities on that one. Maneuvering the Cullens’ staircase in heelsand a train sounded impossible. I should have practiced.Then there was the guest list.Tanya’s family, the Denali clan, would be arriving sometime before the ceremony.
    • 28It would be touchy to have Tanya’s family in the same room with our guests fromthe Quileute reservation, Jacob’s father and the Clearwaters. The Denalis were nofans of the werewolves. In fact, Tanya’s sister Irina was not coming to thewedding at all. She still nursed a vendetta against the werewolves for killing herfriend Laurent (just as he was about to kill me). Thanks to that grudge, theDenalis had abandoned Edward’s family in their worst hour of need. It had beenthe unlikely alliance with the Quileute wolves that had saved all our lives whenthe horde of newborn vampires had attacked. . . .Edward had promised me it wouldn’t be dangerous to have the Denalis near theQuileutes. Tanya and all her family—besides Irina—felt horribly guilty for thatdefection. A truce with the werewolves was a small price to make up some of thatdebt, a price they were prepared to pay.That was the big problem, but there was a small problem, too: my fragile self-esteem.I’d never seen Tanya before, but I was sure that meeting her wouldn’t be apleasant experience for my ego. Once upon a time, before I was born probably,she’d made her play for Edward—not that I blamed her or anyone else forwanting him. Still, she would be beautiful at the very least and magnificent atbest. Though Edward clearly—if inconceivably—preferred me, I wouldn’t be ableto help making comparisons.I had grumbled a little until Edward, who knew my weaknesses, made me feelguilty.“We’re the closest thing they have to family, Bella,” he’d reminded me. “They stillfeel like orphans, you know, even after all this time.”So I’d conceded, hiding my frown.Tanya had a big family now, almost as big as the Cullens. There were five of them;Tanya, Kate, and Irina had been joined by Carmen and Eleazar much the sameway the Cullens had been joined by Alice and Jasper, all of them bonded by theirdesire to live more compassionately than normal vampires did.For all the company, though, Tanya and her sisters were still alone in one way.Still in mourning. Because a very long time ago, they’d had a mother, too.I could imagine the hole that loss would leave, even after a thousand years; I triedto visualize the Cullen family without their creator, their center, and their guide—their father, Carlisle. I couldn’t see it.Carlisle had explained Tanya’s history during one of the many nights I’d stayedlate at the Cullens’ home, learning as much as I could, preparing as much as waspossible for the future I’d chosen. Tanya’s mother’s story was one among many, a
    • 29cautionary tale illustrating just one of the rules I would need to be aware of whenI joined the immortal world. Only one rule, actually—one law that broke downinto a thousand different facets: Keep the secret.Keeping the secret meant a lot of things—living inconspicuously like the Cullens,moving on before humans could suspect they weren’t aging. Or keeping clear ofhumans altogether—except at mealtime—the way nomads like James andVictoria had lived; the way Jasper’s friends, Peter and Charlotte, still lived. Itmeant keeping control of whatever new vampires you created, like Jasper haddone when he’d lived with Maria. Like Victoria had failed to do with hernewborns.And it meant not creating some things in the first place, because some creationswere uncontrollable.“I don’t know Tanya’s mother’s name,” Carlisle had admitted, his golden eyes,almost the exact shade of his fair hair, sad with remembering Tanya’s pain. “Theynever speak of her if they can avoid it, never think of her willingly.“The woman who created Tanya, Kate, and Irina—who loved them, I believe—lived many years before I was born, during a time of plague in our world, theplague of the immortal children.“What they were thinking, those ancient ones, I can’t begin to understand. Theycreated vampires out of humans who were barely more than infants.”I’d had to swallow back the bile that rose in my throat as I’d pictured what he wasdescribing.“They were very beautiful,” Carlisle had explained quickly, seeing my reaction.“So endearing, so enchanting, you can’t imagine. You had but to be near them tolove them; it was an automatic thing.“However, they could not be taught. They were frozen at whatever level ofdevelopment they’d achieved before being bitten. Adorable two-year-olds withdimples and lisps that could destroy half a village in one of their tantrums. If theyhungered, they fed, and no words of warning could restrain them. Humans sawthem, stories circulated, fear spread like fire in dry brush. . . .“Tanya’s mother created such a child. As with the other ancients, I cannot fathomher reasons.” He’d taken a deep, steadying breath. “The Volturi became involved,of course.”I’d flinched as I always did at that name, but of course the legion of Italianvampires—royalty in their own estimation—was central to this story. Therecouldn’t be a law if there was no punishment; there couldn’t be a punishment ifthere was no one to deliver it. The ancients Aro, Caius, and Marcus ruled the
    • 30Volturi forces; I’d only met them once, but in that brief encounter, it seemed tome that Aro, with his powerful mind-reading gift—one touch, and he knew everythought a mind had ever held—was the true leader.“The Volturi studied the immortal children, at home in Volterra and all aroundthe world. Caius decided the young ones were incapable of protecting our secret.And so they had to be destroyed.“I told you they were loveable. Well, covens fought to the last man—were utterlydecimated—to protect them. The carnage was not as widespread as the southernwars on this continent, but more devastating in its own way. Long-establishedcovens, old traditions, friends… Much was lost. In the end, the practice wascompletely eliminated. The immortal children became unmentionable, a taboo.“When I lived with the Volturi, I met two immortal children, so I know firsthandthe appeal they had. Aro studied the little ones for many years after thecatastrophe they’d caused was over. You know his inquisitive disposition; he washopeful that they could be tamed. But in the end, the decision was unanimous:the immortal children could not be allowed to exist.”I’d all but forgotten the Denali sisters’ mother when the story returned to her.“It is unclear precisely what happened with Tanya’s mother,” Carlisle had said.“Tanya, Kate, and Irina were entirely oblivious until the day the Volturi came forthem, their mother and her illegal creation already their prisoners. It wasignorance that saved Tanya’s and her sisters’ lives. Aro touched them and sawtheir total innocence, so they were not punished with their mother.“None of them had ever seen the boy before, or dreamed of his existence, untilthe day they watched him burn in their mother’s arms. I can only guess that theirmother had kept her secret to protect them from this exact outcome. But why hadshe created him in the first place? Who was he, and what had he meant to herthat would cause her to cross this most uncrossable of lines? Tanya and theothers never received an answer to any of these questions. But they could notdoubt their mother’s guilt, and I don’t think they’ve ever truly forgiven her.“Even with Aro’s perfect assurance that Tanya, Kate, and Irina were innocent,Caius wanted them to burn. Guilty by association. They were lucky that Aro feltlike being merciful that day. Tanya and her sisters were pardoned, but left withunhealing hearts and a very healthy respect for the law. . . .”I’m not sure where exactly the memory turned into a dream. One moment itseemed that I was listening to Carlisle in my memory, looking at his face, andthen a moment later I was looking at a gray, barren field and smelling the thickscent of burning incense in the air. I was not alone there.
    • 31The huddle of figures in the center of the field, all shrouded in ashy cloaks, shouldhave terrified me—they could only be Volturi, and I was, against what they’ddecreed at our last meeting, still human. But I knew, as I sometimes did indreams, that I was invisible to them.Scattered all around me were smoking heaps. I recognized the sweetness in theair and did not examine the mounds too closely. I had no desire to see the faces ofthe vampires they had executed, half afraid that I might recognize someone in thesmoldering pyres.The Volturi soldiers stood in a circle around something or someone, and I heardtheir whispery voices raised in agitation. I edged closer to the cloaks, compelledby the dream to see whatever thing or person they were examining with suchintensity. Creeping carefully between two of the tall hissing shrouds, I finally sawthe object of their debate, raised up on a little hillock above them.He was beautiful, adorable, just as Carlisle had described. The boy was a toddlerstill, maybe two years of age. Light brown curls framed his cherubic face with itsround cheeks and full lips. And he was trembling, his eyes closed as if he was toofrightened to watch death coming closer every second.I was struck with such a powerful need to save the lovely, terrified child that theVolturi, despite all their devastating menace, no longer mattered to me. I shovedpast them, not caring if they realized my presence. Breaking free of themaltogether, I sprinted toward the boy.Only to stagger to a halt as I got a clear view of the hillock that he sat upon. It wasnot earth and rock, but a pile of human bodies, drained and lifeless. Too late notto see these faces. I knew them all—Angela, Ben, Jessica, Mike.… And directlybeneath the adorable boy were the bodies of my father and my mother.The child opened his bright, bloodred eyes.
    • 32 3. BIG DAYMy own eyes flew open.I lay shivering and gasping in my warm bed for several minutes, trying to breakfree of the dream. The sky outside my window turned gray and then pale pinkwhile I waited for my heart to slow.When I was fully back to the reality of my messy, familiar room, I was a littleannoyed with myself. What a dream to have the night before my wedding! That’swhat I got for obsessing over disturbing stories in the middle of the night.Eager to shake off the nightmare, I got dressed and headed down to the kitchenlong before I needed to. First I cleaned the already tidy rooms, and then whenCharlie was up I made him pancakes. I was much too keyed up to have anyinterest in eating breakfast myself—I sat bouncing in my seat while he ate.“You’re picking up Mr. Weber at three o’clock,” I reminded him.“I don’t have that much to do today besides bring the minister, Bells. I’m notlikely to forget my only job.” Charlie had taken the entire day off for the wedding,and he was definitely at loose ends. Now and then, his eyes flickered furtively tothe closet under the stairs, where he kept his fishing gear.“That’s not your only job. You also have to be dressed and presentable.”He scowled into his cereal bowl and muttered the words “monkey suit” under hisbreath.There was a brisk tapping on the front door.“You think you have it bad,” I said, grimacing as I rose. “Alice will be working onme all day long.”Charlie nodded thoughtfully, conceding that he did have the lesser ordeal. Iducked in to kiss the top of his head as I passed—he blushed and harrumphed—and then continued on to get the door for my best girlfriend and soon-to-besister.Alice’s short black hair was not in its usual spiky do—it was smoothed into sleekpin curls around her pixie face, which wore a contrastingly businesslikeexpression. She dragged me from the house with barely a “Hey, Charlie” calledover her shoulder.Alice appraised me as I got into her Porsche.
    • 33“Oh, hell, look at your eyes!” She tsked in reproach. “What did you do? Stay up allnight?”“Almost.”She glowered. “I’ve only allotted so much time to make you stunning, Bella—youmight have taken better care of my raw material.”“No one expects me to be stunning. I think the bigger problem is that I might fallasleep during the ceremony and not be able to say ‘I do’ at the right part, andthen Edward will make his escape.”She laughed. “I’ll throw my bouquet at you when it gets close.”“Thanks.”“At least you’ll have plenty of time to sleep on the plane tomorrow.”I raised one eyebrow. Tomorrow, I mused. If we were heading out tonight afterthe reception, and we would still be on a plane tomorrow… well, we weren’t goingto Boise, Idaho. Edward hadn’t dropped a single hint. I wasn’t too stressed aboutthe mystery, but it was strange not knowing where I would be sleeping tomorrownight. Or hopefully not sleeping . . .Alice realized that she’d given something away, and she frowned.“You’re all packed and ready,” she said to distract me.It worked. “Alice, I wish you would let me pack my own things!”“It would have given too much away.”“And denied you an opportunity to shop.”“You’ll be my sister officially in ten short hours… it’s about time to get over thisaversion to new clothes.”I glowered groggily out the windshield until we were almost to the house.“Is he back yet?” I asked.“Don’t worry, he’ll be there before the music starts. But you don’t get to see him,no matter when he gets back. We’re doing this the traditional way.”I snorted. “Traditional!”“Okay, aside from the bride and groom.”
    • 34“You know he’s already peeked.”“Oh no—that’s why I’m the only one who’s seen you in the dress. I’ve been verycareful to not think about it when he’s around.”“Well,” I said as we turned into the drive, “I see you got to reuse your graduationdecorations.” Three miles of drive were once again wrapped in hundreds ofthousands of twinkle lights. This time, she’d added white satin bows.“Waste not, want not. Enjoy this, because you don’t get to see the insidedecorations until it’s time.” She pulled into the cavernous garage north of themain house; Emmett’s big Jeep was still gone.“Since when is the bride not allowed to see the decorations?” I protested.“Since she put me in charge. I want you to get the full impact coming down thestairs.”She clapped her hand over my eyes before she let me inside the kitchen. I wasimmediately assailed by the scent.“What is that?” I wondered as she guided me into the house.“Is it too much?” Alice’s voice was abruptly worried. “You’re the first human inhere; I hope I got it right.”“It smells wonderful!” I assured her—almost intoxicating, but not at alloverwhelming, the balance of the different fragrances was subtle and flawless.“Orange blossoms… lilac… and something else—am I right?”“Very good, Bella. You only missed the freesia and the roses.”She didn’t uncover my eyes until we were in her oversized bathroom. I stared atthe long counter, covered in all the paraphernalia of a beauty salon, and began tofeel my sleepless night.“Is this really necessary? I’m going to look plain next to him no matter what.”She pushed me down into a low pink chair. “No one will dare to call you plainwhen I’m through with you.”“Only because they’re afraid you’ll suck their blood,” I muttered. I leaned back inthe chair and closed my eyes, hoping I’d be able to nap through it. I did drift inand out a little bit while she masked, buffed, and polished every surface of mybody.
    • 35It was after lunchtime when Rosalie glided past the bathroom door in a shimmerysilver gown with her golden hair piled up in a soft crown on top of her head. Shewas so beautiful it made me want to cry. What was even the point of dressing upwith Rosalie around?“They’re back,” Rosalie said, and immediately my childish fit of despair passed.Edward was home.“Keep him out of here!”“He won’t cross you today,” Rosalie reassured her. “He values his life too much.Esme’s got them finishing things up out back. Do you want some help? I could doher hair.”My jaw fell open. I floundered around in my head, trying to remember how toclose it.I had never been Rosalie’s favorite person in the world. Then, making things evenmore strained between us, she was personally offended by the choice I wasmaking now. Though she had her impossible beauty, her loving family, and hersoul mate in Emmett, she would have traded it all to be human. And here I was,callously throwing away everything she wanted in life like it was garbage. It didn’texactly warm her to me.“Sure,” Alice said easily. “You can start braiding. I want it intricate. The veil goeshere, underneath.” Her hands started combing through my hair, hefting it,twisting it, illustrating in detail what she wanted. When she was done, Rosalie’shands replaced hers, shaping my hair with a feather-light touch. Alice movedback to my face.Once Rosalie received Alice’s commendation on my hair, she was sent off toretrieve my dress and then to locate Jasper, who had been dispatched to pick upmy mother and her husband, Phil, from their hotel. Downstairs, I could faintlyhear the door opening and closing over and over. Voices began to float up to us.Alice made me stand so that she could ease the dress over my hair and makeup.My knees shook so badly as she fastened the long line of pearl buttons up myback that the satin quivered in little wavelets down to the floor.“Deep breaths, Bella,” Alice said. “And try to lower your heart rate. You’re goingto sweat off your new face.”I gave her the best sarcastic expression I could manage. “I’ll get right on that.”“I have to get dressed now. Can you hold yourself together for two minutes?”“Um… maybe?”
    • 36She rolled her eyes and darted out the door.I concentrated on my breathing, counting each movement of my lungs, andstared at the patterns that the bathroom light made on the shiny fabric of myskirt. I was afraid to look in the mirror—afraid the image of myself in the weddingdress would send me over the edge into a full-scale panic attack.Alice was back before I had taken two hundred breaths, in a dress that floweddown her slender body like a silvery waterfall.“Alice—wow.”“It’s nothing. No one will be looking at me today. Not while you’re in the room.”“Har har.”“Now, are you in control of yourself, or do I have to bring Jasper up here?”“They’re back? Is my mom here?”“She just walked in the door. She’s on her way up.”Renée had flown in two days ago, and I’d spent every minute I could with her—every minute that I could pry her away from Esme and the decorations, in otherwords. As far as I could tell, she was having more fun with this than a kid lockedinside Disneyland overnight. In a way, I felt almost as cheated as Charlie. All thatwasted terror over her reaction . . .“Oh, Bella!” she squealed now, gushing before she was all the way through thedoor. “Oh, honey, you’re so beautiful! Oh, I’m going to cry! Alice, you’re amazing!You and Esme should go into business as wedding planners. Where did you findthis dress? It’s gorgeous! So graceful, so elegant. Bella, you look like you juststepped out of an Austen movie.” My mother’s voice sounded a little distanceaway, and everything in the room was slightly blurry. “Such a creative idea,designing the theme around Bella’s ring. So romantic! To think it’s been inEdward’s family since the eighteen hundreds!”Alice and I exchanged a brief conspiratorial look. My mom was off on the dressstyle by more than a hundred years. The wedding wasn’t actually centered aroundthe ring, but around Edward himself.There was a loud, gruff throat-clearing in the doorway.“Renée, Esme said it’s time you got settled down there,” Charlie said.“Well, Charlie, don’t you look dashing!” Renée said in a tone that was almostshocked. That might have explained the crustiness of Charlie’s answer.
    • 37“Alice got to me.”“Is it really time already?” Renée said to herself, sounding almost as nervous as Ifelt. “This has all gone so fast. I feel dizzy.”That made two of us.“Give me a hug before I go down,” Renée insisted. “Carefully now, don’t tearanything.”My mother squeezed me gently around the waist, then wheeled for the door, onlyto complete the spin and face me again.“Oh goodness, I almost forgot! Charlie, where’s the box?”My dad rummaged in his pockets for a minute and then produced a small whitebox, which he handed to Renée. Renée lifted the lid and held it out to me.“Something blue,” she said.“Something old, too. They were your Grandma Swan’s,” Charlie added. “We had ajeweler replace the paste stones with sapphires.”Inside the box were two heavy silver hair combs. Dark blue sapphires wereclustered into intricate floral shapes atop the teeth.My throat got all thick. “Mom, Dad… you shouldn’t have.”“Alice wouldn’t let us do anything else,” Renée said. “Every time we tried, she allbut ripped our throats out.”A hysterical giggle burst through my lips.Alice stepped up and quickly slid both combs into my hair under the edge of thethick braids. “That’s something old and something blue,” Alice mused, taking afew steps back to admire me. “And your dress is new… so here—”She flicked something at me. I held my hands out automatically, and the filmywhite garter landed in my palms.“That’s mine and I want it back,” Alice told me.I blushed.“There,” Alice said with satisfaction. “A little color—that’s all you needed. You areofficially perfect.” With a little self-congratulatory smile, she turned to myparents. “Renée, you need to get downstairs.”
    • 38“Yes, ma’am.” Renée blew me a kiss and hurried out the door.“Charlie, would you grab the flowers, please?”While Charlie was out of the room, Alice hooked the garter out of my hands andthen ducked under my skirt. I gasped and tottered as her cold hand caught myankle; she yanked the garter into place.She was back on her feet before Charlie returned with the two frothy whitebouquets. The scent of roses and orange blossom and freesia enveloped me in asoft mist.Rosalie—the best musician in the family next to Edward—began playing thepiano downstairs. Pachelbel’s Canon. I began hyperventilating.“Easy, Bells,” Charlie said. He turned to Alice nervously. “She looks a little sick.Do you think she’s going to make it?”His voice sounded far away. I couldn’t feel my legs.“She’d better.”Alice stood right in front of me, on her tiptoes to better stare me in the eye, andgripped my wrists in her hard hands.“Focus, Bella. Edward is waiting for you down there.”I took a deep breath, willing myself into composure.The music slowly morphed into a new song. Charlie nudged me. “Bells, we’re upto bat.”“Bella?” Alice asked, still holding my gaze.“Yes,” I squeaked. “Edward. Okay.” I let her pull me from the room, with Charlietagging along at my elbow.The music was louder in the hall. It floated up the stairs along with the fragranceof a million flowers. I concentrated on the idea of Edward waiting below to get myfeet to shuffle forward.The music was familiar, Wagner’s traditional march surrounded by a flood ofembellishments.“It’s my turn,” Alice chimed. “Count to five and follow me.” She began a slow,graceful dance down the staircase. I should have realized that having Alice as my
    • 39only bridesmaid was a mistake. I would look that much more uncoordinatedcoming behind her.A sudden fanfare trilled through the soaring music. I recognized my cue.“Don’t let me fall, Dad,” I whispered. Charlie pulled my hand through his armand then grasped it tightly.One step at a time, I told myself as we began to descend to the slow tempo of themarch. I didn’t lift my eyes until my feet were safely on the flat ground, though Icould hear the murmurs and rustling of the audience as I came into view. Bloodflooded my cheeks at the sound; of course I could be counted on to be theblushing bride.As soon as my feet were past the treacherous stairs, I was looking for him. For abrief second, I was distracted by the profusion of white blossoms that hung ingarlands from everything in the room that wasn’t alive, dripping with long linesof white gossamer ribbons. But I tore my eyes from the bowery canopy andsearched across the rows of satin-draped chairs—blushing more deeply as I tookin the crowd of faces all focused on me—until I found him at last, standing beforean arch overflowing with more flowers, more gossamer.I was barely conscious that Carlisle stood by his side, and Angela’s father behindthem both. I didn’t see my mother where she must have been sitting in the frontrow, or my new family, or any of the guests—they would have to wait till later.All I really saw was Edward’s face; it filled my vision and overwhelmed my mind.His eyes were a buttery, burning gold; his perfect face was almost severe with thedepth of his emotion. And then, as he met my awed gaze, he broke into abreathtaking smile of exultation.Suddenly, it was only the pressure of Charlie’s hand on mine that kept me fromsprinting headlong down the aisle.The march was too slow as I struggled to pace my steps to its rhythm. Mercifully,the aisle was very short. And then, at last, at last, I was there. Edward held out hishand. Charlie took my hand and, in a symbol as old as the world, placed it inEdward’s. I touched the cool miracle of his skin, and I was home.Our vows were the simple, traditional words that had been spoken a milliontimes, though never by a couple quite like us. We’d asked Mr. Weber to makeonly one small change. He obligingly traded the line “till death do us part” for themore appropriate “as long as we both shall live.”In that moment, as the minister said his part, my world, which had been upsidedown for so long now, seemed to settle into its proper position. I saw just howsilly I’d been for fearing this—as if it were an unwanted birthday gift or an
    • 40embarrassing exhibition, like the prom. I looked into Edward’s shining,triumphant eyes and knew that I was winning, too. Because nothing elsemattered but that I could stay with him.I didn’t realize I was crying until it was time to say the binding words.“I do,” I managed to choke out in a nearly unintelligible whisper, blinking myeyes clear so I could see his face.When it was his turn to speak, the words rang clear and victorious.“I do,” he vowed.Mr. Weber declared us husband and wife, and then Edward’s hands reached upto cradle my face, carefully, as if it were as delicate as the white petals swayingabove our heads. I tried to comprehend, through the film of tears blinding me,the surreal fact that this amazing person was mine. His golden eyes looked as ifthey would have tears, too, if such a thing were not impossible. He bent his headtoward mine, and I stretched up on the tips of my toes, throwing my arms—bouquet and all—around his neck.He kissed me tenderly, adoringly; I forgot the crowd, the place, the time, thereason… only remembering that he loved me, that he wanted me, that I was his.He began the kiss, and he had to end it; I clung to him, ignoring the titters andthe throat-clearing in the audience. Finally, his hands restrained my face and hepulled back—too soon—to look at me. On the surface his sudden smile wasamused, almost a smirk. But underneath his momentary entertainment at mypublic exhibition was a deep joy that echoed my own.The crowd erupted into applause, and he turned our bodies to face our friendsand family. I couldn’t look away from his face to see them.My mother’s arms were the first to find me, her tear-streaked face the first thing Isaw when I finally tore my eyes unwillingly from Edward. And then I was handedthrough the crowd, passed from embrace to embrace, only vaguely aware of whoheld me, my attention centered on Edward’s hand clutched tightly in my own. Idid recognize the difference between the soft, warm hugs of my human friendsand the gentle, cool embraces of my new family.One scorching hug stood out from all the others—Seth Clearwater had braved thethrong of vampires to stand in for my lost werewolf friend.
    • 41 4. GESTUREThe wedding flowed into the reception party smoothly—proof of Alice’s flawlessplanning. It was just twilight over the river; the ceremony had lasted exactly theright amount of time, allowing the sun to set behind the trees. The lights in thetrees glimmered as Edward led me through the glass back doors, making thewhite flowers glow. There were another ten thousand flowers out here, serving asa fragrant, airy tent over the dance floor set up on the grass under two of theancient cedars.Things slowed down, relaxed as the mellow August evening surrounded us. Thelittle crowd spread out under the soft shine of the twinkle lights, and we weregreeted again by the friends we’d just embraced. There was time to talk now, tolaugh.“Congrats, guys,” Seth Clearwater told us, ducking his head under the edge of aflower garland. His mother, Sue, was tight by his side, eyeing the guests withwary intensity. Her face was thin and fierce, an expression that was accented byher short, severe hairstyle; it was as short as her daughter Leah’s—I wondered ifshe’d cut it the same way in a show of solidarity. Billy Black, on Seth’s other side,was not as tense as Sue.When I looked at Jacob’s father, I always felt like I was seeing two people ratherthan just one. There was the old man in the wheelchair with the lined face and thewhite smile that everyone else saw. And then there was the direct descendant of along line of powerful, magical chieftains, cloaked in the authority he’d been bornwith. Though the magic had—in the absence of a catalyst—skipped hisgeneration, Billy was still a part of the power and the legend. It flowed straightthrough him. It flowed to his son, the heir to the magic, who had turned his backon it. That left Sam Uley to act as the chief of legends and magic now. . . .Billy seemed oddly at ease considering the company and the event—his black eyessparkled like he’d just gotten some good news. I was impressed by hiscomposure. This wedding must have seemed a very bad thing, the worst thingthat could happen to his best friend’s daughter, in Billy’s eyes.I knew it wasn’t easy for him to restrain his feelings, considering the challengethis event foreshadowed to the ancient treaty between the Cullens and theQuileutes—the treaty that prohibited the Cullens from ever creating anothervampire. The wolves knew a breach was coming, but the Cullens had no idea howthey would react. Before the alliance, it would have meant an immediate attack. Awar. But now that they knew each other better, would there be forgivenessinstead?As if in response to that thought, Seth leaned toward Edward, arms extended.Edward returned the hug with his free arm.
    • 42I saw Sue shudder delicately.“It’s good to see things work out for you, man,” Seth said. “I’m happy for you.”“Thank you, Seth. That means a lot to me.” Edward pulled away from Seth andlooked at Sue and Billy. “Thank you, as well. For letting Seth come. Forsupporting Bella today.”“You’re welcome,” Billy said in his deep, gravelly voice, and I was surprised at theoptimism in his tone. Perhaps a stronger truce was on the horizon.A bit of a line was forming, so Seth waved goodbye and wheeled Billy toward thefood. Sue kept one hand on each of them.Angela and Ben were the next to claim us, followed by Angela’s parents and thenMike and Jessica—who were, to my surprise, holding hands. I hadn’t heard thatthey were together again. That was nice.Behind my human friends were my new cousins-in-law, the Denali vampire clan.I realized I was holding my breath as the vampire in front—Tanya, I assumedfrom the strawberry tint in her blond curls—reached out to embrace Edward.Next to her, three other vampires with golden eyes stared at me with opencuriosity. One woman had long, pale blond hair, straight as corn silk. The otherwoman and the man beside her were both black-haired, with a hint of an olivetone to their chalky complexions.And they were all four so beautiful that it made my stomach hurt.Tanya was still holding Edward.“Ah, Edward,” she said. “I’ve missed you.”Edward chuckled and deftly maneuvered out of the hug, placing his hand lightlyon her shoulder and stepping back, as if to get a better look at her. “It’s been toolong, Tanya. You look well.”“So do you.”“Let me introduce you to my wife.” It was the first time Edward had said thatword since it was officially true; he seemed like he would explode withsatisfaction saying it now. The Denalis all laughed lightly in response. “Tanya,this is my Bella.”Tanya was every bit as lovely as my worst nightmares had predicted. She eyed mewith a look that was much more speculative than it was resigned, and thenreached out to take my hand.
    • 43“Welcome to the family, Bella.” She smiled, a little rueful. “We consider ourselvesCarlisle’s extended family, and I am sorry about the, er, recent incident when wedid not behave as such. We should have met you sooner. Can you forgive us?”“Of course,” I said breathlessly. “It’s so nice to meet you.”“The Cullens are all evened up in numbers now. Perhaps it will be our turn next,eh, Kate?” She grinned at the blonde.“Keep the dream alive,” Kate said with a roll of her golden eyes. She took myhand from Tanya’s and squeezed it gently. “Welcome, Bella.”The dark-haired woman put her hand on top of Kate’s. “I’m Carmen, this isEleazar. We’re all so very pleased to finally meet you.”“M-me, too,” I stuttered.Tanya glanced at the people waiting behind her—Charlie’s deputy, Mark, and hiswife. Their eyes were huge as they took in the Denali clan.“We’ll get to know each other later. We’ll have eons of time for that!” Tanyalaughed as she and her family moved on.All the standard traditions were kept. I was blinded by flashbulbs as we held theknife over a spectacular cake—too grand, I thought, for our relatively intimategroup of friends and family. We took turns shoving cake in each other’s faces;Edward manfully swallowed his portion as I watched in disbelief. I threw mybouquet with atypical skill, right into Angela’s surprised hands. Emmett andJasper howled with laughter at my blush while Edward removed my borrowedgarter—which I’d shimmied down nearly to my ankle—very carefully with histeeth. With a quick wink at me, he shot it straight into Mike Newton’s face.And when the music started, Edward pulled me into his arms for the customaryfirst dance; I went willingly, despite my fear of dancing—especially dancing infront of an audience—just happy to have him holding me. He did all the work,and I twirled effortlessly under the glow of a canopy of lights and the brightflashes from the cameras.“Enjoying the party, Mrs. Cullen?” he whispered in my ear.I laughed. “That will take a while to get used to.”“We have a while,” he reminded me, his voice exultant, and he leaned down tokiss me while we danced. Cameras clicked feverishly.The music changed, and Charlie tapped on Edward’s shoulder.
    • 44It wasn’t nearly as easy to dance with Charlie. He was no better at it than I was, sowe moved safely from side to side in a tiny square formation. Edward and Esmespun around us like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.“I’m going to miss you at home, Bella. I’m already lonely.”I spoke through a tight throat, trying to make a joke of it. “I feel just horrible,leaving you to cook for yourself—it’s practically criminal negligence. You couldarrest me.”He grinned. “I suppose I’ll survive the food. Just call me whenever you can.”“I promise.”It seemed like I danced with everyone. It was good to see all my old friends, but Ireally wanted to be with Edward more than anything else. I was happy when hefinally cut in, just half a minute after a new dance started.“Still not that fond of Mike, eh?” I commented as Edward whirled me away fromhim.“Not when I have to listen to his thoughts. He’s lucky I didn’t kick him out. Orworse.”“Yeah, right.”“Have you had a chance to look at yourself?”“Um. No, I guess not. Why?”“Then I suppose you don’t realize how utterly, heart-breakingly beautiful you aretonight. I’m not surprised Mike’s having difficulty with improper thoughts abouta married woman. I am disappointed that Alice didn’t make sure you were forcedto look in a mirror.”“You are very biased, you know.”He sighed and then paused and turned me around to face the house. The wall ofglass reflected the party back like a long mirror. Edward pointed to the couple inthe mirror directly across from us.“Biased, am I?”I caught just a glimpse of Edward’s reflection—a perfect duplicate of his perfectface—with a dark-haired beauty at his side. Her skin was cream and roses, hereyes were huge with excitement and framed with thick lashes. The narrow sheathof the shimmering white dress flared out subtly at the train almost like an
    • 45inverted calla lily, cut so skillfully that her body looked elegant and graceful—while it was motionless, at least.Before I could blink and make the beauty turn back into me, Edward suddenlystiffened and turned automatically in the other direction, as if someone hadcalled his name.“Oh!” he said. His brow furrowed for an instant and then smoothed out just asquickly.Suddenly, he was smiling a brilliant smile.“What is it?” I asked.“A surprise wedding gift.”“Huh?”He didn’t answer; he just started dancing again, spinning me the opposite waywe’d been headed before, away from the lights and then into the deep swath ofnight that ringed the luminous dance floor.He didn’t pause until we reached the dark side of one of the huge cedars. ThenEdward looked straight into the blackest shadow.“Thank you,” Edward said to the darkness. “This is very… kind of you.”“Kind is my middle name,” a husky familiar voice answered from the black night.“Can I cut in?”My hand flew up to my throat, and if Edward hadn’t been holding me I wouldhave collapsed.“Jacob!” I choked as soon as I could breathe. “Jacob!”“Hey there, Bells.”I stumbled toward the sound of his voice. Edward kept his grip under my elbowuntil another set of strong hands caught me in the darkness. The heat fromJacob’s skin burned right through the thin satin dress as he pulled me close. Hemade no effort to dance; he just hugged me while I buried my face in his chest.He leaned down to press his cheek to the top of my head.“Rosalie won’t forgive me if she doesn’t get her official turn on the dance floor,”Edward murmured, and I knew he was leaving us, giving me a gift of his own—this moment with Jacob.
    • 46“Oh, Jacob.” I was crying now; I couldn’t get the words out clearly. “Thank you.”“Stop blubbering, Bella. You’ll ruin your dress. It’s just me.”“Just? Oh, Jake! Everything is perfect now.”He snorted. “Yeah—the party can start. The best man finally made it.”“Now everyone I love is here.”I felt his lips brush my hair. “Sorry I’m late, honey.”“I’m just so happy you came!”“That was the idea.”I glanced toward the guests, but I couldn’t see through the dancers to the spotwhere I’d last seen Jacob’s father. I didn’t know if he’d stayed. “Does Billy knowyou’re here?” As soon as I asked, I knew that he must have—it was the only way toexplain his uplifted expression before.“I’m sure Sam’s told him. I’ll go see him when… when the party’s over.”“He’ll be so glad you’re home.”Jacob pulled back a little bit and straightened up. He left one hand on the smallof my back and grabbed my right hand with the other. He cradled our hands tohis chest; I could feel his heart beat under my palm, and I guessed that he hadn’tplaced my hand there accidentally.“I don’t know if I get more than just this one dance,” he said, and he beganpulling me around in a slow circle that didn’t match the tempo of the musiccoming from behind us. “I’d better make the best of it.”We moved to the rhythm of his heart under my hand.“I’m glad I came,” Jacob said quietly after a moment. “I didn’t think I would be.But it’s good to see you… one more time. Not as sad as I’d thought it would be.”“I don’t want you to feel sad.”“I know that. And I didn’t come tonight to make you feel guilty.”“No—it makes me very happy that you came. It’s the best gift you could havegiven me.”He laughed. “That’s good, because I didn’t have time to stop for a real present.”
    • 47My eyes were adjusting, and I could see his face now, higher up than I expected.Was it possible that he was still growing? He had to be closer to seven feet than tosix. It was a relief to see his familiar features again after all this time—his deep-set eyes shadowed under his shaggy black brows, his high cheekbones, his fulllips stretched over his bright teeth in the sarcastic smile that matched his tone.His eyes were tight around the edges—careful; I could see that he was being verycareful tonight. He was doing all he could to make me happy, to not slip and showhow much this cost him.I’d never done anything good enough to deserve a friend like Jacob.“When did you decide to come back?”“Consciously or subconsciously?” He took a deep breath before he answered hisown question. “I don’t really know. I guess I’ve been wandering back thisdirection for a while, and maybe it’s because I was headed here. But it wasn’tuntil this morning that I really started running. I didn’t know if I could make it.”He laughed. “You wouldn’t believe how weird this feels—walking around on twolegs again. And clothes! And then it’s more bizarre because it feels weird. I didn’texpect that. I’m out of practice with the whole human thing.”We revolved steadily.“It would have been a shame to miss seeing you like this, though. That’s worththe trip right there. You look unbelievable, Bella. So beautiful.”“Alice invested a lot of time in me today. The dark helps, too.”“It’s not so dark for me, you know.”“Right.” Werewolf senses. It was easy to forget all the things he could do, heseemed so human. Especially right now.“You cut your hair,” I noted.“Yeah. Easier, you know. Thought I’d better take advantage of the hands.”“It looks good,” I lied.He snorted. “Right. I did it myself, with rusty kitchen shears.” He grinned widelyfor a moment, and then his smile faded. His expression turned serious. “Are youhappy, Bella?”“Yes.”“Okay.” I felt his shoulders shrug. “That’s the main thing, I guess.”
    • 48“How are you, Jacob? Really?”“I’m fine, Bella, really. You don’t need to worry about me anymore. You can stopbugging Seth.”“I’m not just bugging him because of you. I like Seth.”“He’s a good kid. Better company than some. I tell you, if I could get rid of thevoices in my head, being a wolf would be about perfect.”I laughed at the way it sounded. “Yeah, I can’t get mine to shut up, either.”“In your case, that would mean you’re insane. Of course, I already knew that youwere insane,” he teased.“Thanks.”“Insanity is probably easier than sharing a pack mind. Crazy people’s voices don’tsend babysitters to watch them.”“Huh?”“Sam’s out there. And some of the others. Just in case, you know.”“In case of what?”“In case I can’t keep it together, something like that. In case I decide to trash theparty.” He flashed a quick smile at what was probably an appealing thought tohim. “But I’m not here to ruin your wedding, Bella. I’m here to . . .” He trailed off.“To make it perfect.”“That’s a tall order.”“Good thing you’re so tall.”He groaned at my bad joke and then sighed. “I’m just here to be your friend. Yourbest friend, one last time.”“Sam should give you more credit.”“Well, maybe I’m being oversensitive. Maybe they’d be here anyway, to keep aneye on Seth. There are a lot of vampires here. Seth doesn’t take that as seriouslyas he should.”“Seth knows that he’s not in any danger. He understands the Cullens better thanSam does.”
    • 49“Sure, sure,” Jacob said, making peace before it could turn into a fight.It was strange to have him being the diplomat.“Sorry about those voices,” I said. “Wish I could make it better.” In so many ways.“It’s not that bad. I’m just whining a little.”“You’re… happy?”“Close enough. But enough about me. You’re the star today.” He chuckled. “I betyou’re just loving that. Center of attention.”“Yeah. Can’t get enough attention.”He laughed and then stared over my head. With pursed lips, he studied theshimmering glow of the reception party, the graceful whirl of the dancers, thefluttering petals falling from the garlands; I looked with him. It all seemed verydistant from this black, quiet space. Almost like watching the white flurriesswirling inside a snow globe.“I’ll give them this much,” he said. “They know how to throw a party.”“Alice is an unstoppable force of nature.”He sighed. “Song’s over. Do you think I get another one? Or is that asking toomuch?”I tightened my hand around his. “You can have as many dances as you want.”He laughed. “That would be interesting. I think I’d better stick with two, though.Don’t want to start talk.”We turned in another circle.“You’d think I’d be used to telling you goodbye by now,” he murmured.I tried to swallow the lump in my throat, but I couldn’t force it down.Jacob looked at me and frowned. He wiped his fingers across my cheek, catchingthe tears there.“You’re not supposed to be the one crying, Bella.”“Everyone cries at weddings,” I said thickly.“This is what you want, right?”
    • 50“Right.”“Then smile.”I tried. He laughed at my grimace.“I’m going to try to remember you like this. Pretend that . . .”“That what? That I died?”He clenched his teeth. He was struggling with himself—with his decision to makehis presence here a gift and not a judgment. I could guess what he wanted to say.“No,” he finally answered. “But I’ll see you this way in my head. Pink cheeks.Heartbeat. Two left feet. All of that.”I deliberately stomped on his foot as hard as I could.He smiled. “That’s my girl.”He started to say something else and then snapped his mouth closed. Strugglingagain, teeth gritted against the words he didn’t want to say.My relationship with Jacob used to be so easy. Natural as breathing. But sinceEdward had come back into my life, it was a constant strain. Because—in Jacob’seyes—by choosing Edward, I was choosing a fate that was worse than death, or atleast equivalent to it.“What is it, Jake? Just tell me. You can tell me anything.”“I—I… I don’t have anything to tell you.”“Oh please. Spit it out.”“It’s true. It’s not… it’s—it’s a question. It’s something I want you to tell me.”“Ask me.”He struggled for another minute and then exhaled. “I shouldn’t. It doesn’t matter.I’m just morbidly curious.”Because I knew him so well, I understood.“It’s not tonight, Jacob,” I whispered.Jacob was even more obsessed with my humanity than Edward. He treasuredevery one of my heartbeats, knowing that they were numbered.
    • 51“Oh,” he said, trying to smother his relief. “Oh.”A new song started playing, but he didn’t notice the change this time.“When?” he whispered.“I don’t know for sure. A week or two, maybe.”His voice changed, took on a defensive, mocking edge. “What’s the holdup?”“I just didn’t want to spend my honeymoon writhing in pain.”“You’d rather spend it how? Playing checkers? Ha ha.”“Very funny.”“Kidding, Bells. But, honestly, I don’t see the point. You can’t have a realhoneymoon with your vampire, so why go through the motions? Call a spade aspade. This isn’t the first time you’ve put this off. That’s a good thing, though,” hesaid, suddenly earnest. “Don’t be embarrassed about it.”“I’m not putting anything off,” I snapped. “And yes I can have a real honeymoon!I can do anything I want! Butt out!”He stopped our slow circling abruptly. For a moment, I wondered if he’d finallynoticed the music change, and I scrambled in my head for a way to patch up ourlittle tiff before he said goodbye to me. We shouldn’t part on this note.And then his eyes bulged wide with a strange kind of confused horror.“What?” he gasped. “What did you say?”“About what… ? Jake? What’s wrong?”“What do you mean? Have a real honeymoon? While you’re still human? Are youkidding? That’s a sick joke, Bella!”I glared at him. “I said butt out, Jake. This is so not your business. I shouldn’thave… we shouldn’t even be talking about this. It’s private—”His enormous hands gripped the tops of my arms, wrapping all the way around,fingers overlapping.“Ow, Jake! Let go!”He shook me.
    • 52“Bella! Have you lost your mind? You can’t be that stupid! Tell me you’re joking!”He shook me again. His hands, tight as tourniquets, were quivering, sendingvibrations deep into my bones.“Jake—stop!”The darkness was suddenly very crowded.“Take your hands off her!” Edward’s voice was cold as ice, sharp as razors.Behind Jacob, there was a low snarl from the black night, and then another,overlapping the first.“Jake, bro, back away,” I heard Seth Clearwater urge. “You’re losing it.”Jacob seemed frozen as he was, his horrified eyes wide and staring.“You’ll hurt her,” Seth whispered. “Let her go.”“Now!” Edward snarled.Jacob’s hands dropped to his sides, and the sudden gush of blood through mywaiting veins was almost painful. Before I could register more than that, coldhands replaced the hot ones, and the air was suddenly whooshing past me.I blinked, and I was on my feet a half dozen feet away from where I’d beenstanding. Edward was tensed in front of me. There were two enormous wolvesbraced between him and Jacob, but they did not seem aggressive to me. More likethey were trying to prevent the fight.And Seth—gangly, fifteen-year-old Seth—had his long arms around Jacob’sshaking body, and he was tugging him away. If Jacob phased with Seth so close…“C’mon, Jake. Let’s go.”“I’ll kill you,” Jacob said, his voice so choked with rage that it was low as awhisper. His eyes, focused on Edward, burned with fury. “I’ll kill you myself! I’lldo it now!” He shuddered convulsively.The biggest wolf, the black one, growled sharply.“Seth, get out of the way,” Edward hissed.Seth tugged on Jacob again. Jacob was so bewildered with rage that Seth was ableto yank him a few feet farther back. “Don’t do it, Jake. Walk away. C’mon.”
    • 53Sam—the bigger wolf, the black one—joined Seth then. He put his massive headagainst Jacob’s chest and shoved.The three of them—Seth towing, Jake trembling, Sam pushing—disappearedswiftly into the darkness.The other wolf stared after them. I wasn’t sure, in the weak light, about the colorof his fur—chocolate brown, maybe? Was it Quil, then?“I’m sorry,” I whispered to the wolf.“It’s all right now, Bella,” Edward murmured.The wolf looked at Edward. His gaze was not friendly. Edward gave him one coldnod. The wolf huffed and then turned to follow the others, vanishing as they had.“All right,” Edward said to himself, and then he looked at me. “Let’s get back.”“But Jake—”“Sam has him in hand. He’s gone.”“Edward, I’m so sorry. I was stupid—”“You did nothing wrong—”“I have such a big mouth! Why would I… I shouldn’t have let him get to me likethat. What was I thinking?”“Don’t worry.” He touched my face. “We need to get back to the reception beforesomeone notices our absence.”I shook my head, trying to reorient myself. Before someone noticed? Had anyonemissed that?Then, as I thought about it, I realized the confrontation that had seemed socatastrophic to me had, in reality, been very quiet and short here in the shadows.“Give me two seconds,” I pleaded.My insides were chaotic with panic and grief, but that didn’t matter—only theoutside mattered right now. Putting on a good show was something I knew I hadto master.“My dress?”“You look fine. Not a hair out of place.”
    • 54I took two deep breaths. “Okay. Let’s go.”He put his arms around me and led me back to the light. When we passed underthe twinkle lights, he spun me gently onto the dance floor. We melted in with theother dancers as if our dance had never been interrupted.I glanced around at the guests, but no one seemed shocked or frightened. Onlythe very palest faces there showed any signs of stress, and they hid it well. Jasperand Emmett were on the edge of the floor, close together, and I guessed that theyhad been nearby during the confrontation.“Are you—”“I’m fine,” I promised. “I can’t believe I did that. What’s wrong with me?”“Nothing is wrong with you.”I’d been so glad to see Jacob here. I knew the sacrifice it had taken him. And thenI’d ruined it, turned his gift into a disaster. I should be quarantined.But my idiocy would not ruin anything else tonight. I would put this away, shoveit in a drawer and lock it up to deal with later. There would be plenty of time toflagellate myself for this, and nothing I could do now would help.“It’s over,” I said. “Let’s not think of it again tonight.”I expected a quick agreement from Edward, but he was silent.“Edward?”He closed his eyes and touched his forehead to mine. “Jacob is right,” hewhispered. “What am I thinking?”“He is not.” I tried to keep my face smooth for the watching crowd of friends.“Jacob is way too prejudiced to see anything clearly.”He mumbled something low that sounded almost like “should let him kill me foreven thinking . . .”“Stop it,” I said fiercely. I grabbed his face in my hands and waited until heopened his eyes. “You and me. That’s the only thing that matters. The only thingyou’re allowed to think about now. Do you hear me?”“Yes,” he sighed.“Forget Jacob came.” I could do that. I would do that. “For me. Promise thatyou’ll let this go.”
    • 55He stared into my eyes for a moment before answering. “I promise.”“Thank you. Edward, I’m not afraid.”“I am,” he whispered.“Don’t be.” I took deep breath and smiled. “By the way, I love you.”He smiled just a little in return. “That’s why we’re here.”“You’re monopolizing the bride,” Emmett said, coming up behind Edward’sshoulder. “Let me dance with my little sister. This could be my last chance tomake her blush.” He laughed loudly, as unaffected as he usually was by anyserious atmosphere.It turned out there were actually lots of people I hadn’t danced with yet, and thatgave me a chance to truly compose and resolve myself. When Edward claimed meagain, I found that the Jacob-drawer was shut nice and tight. As he wrapped hisarms around me, I was able to unearth my earlier sense of joy, my certainty thateverything in my life was in the right place tonight. I smiled and laid my headagainst his chest. His arms tightened.“I could get used to this,” I said.“Don’t tell me you’ve gotten over your dancing issues?”“Dancing isn’t so bad—with you. But I was thinking more of this,”—and I pressedmyself to him even tighter—“of never having to let you go.”“Never,” he promised, and he leaned down to kiss me.It was a serious kind of kiss—intense, slow but building.…I’d pretty much forgotten where I was when I heard Alice call, “Bella! It’s time!”I felt a brief flicker of irritation with my new sister for the interruption.Edward ignored her; his lips were hard against mine, more urgent than before.My heart broke into a sprint and my palms were slick against his marble neck.“Do you want to miss your plane?” Alice demanded, right next to me now. “I’msure you’ll have a lovely honeymoon camped out in the airport waiting foranother flight.”Edward turned his face slightly to murmur, “Go away, Alice,” and then pressedhis lips to mine again.
    • 56“Bella, do you want to wear that dress on the airplane?” she demanded.I wasn’t really paying much attention. At the moment, I simply didn’t care.Alice growled quietly. “I’ll tell her where you’re taking her, Edward. So help me, Iwill.”He froze. Then he lifted his face from mine and glared at his favorite sister.“You’re awfully small to be so hugely irritating.”“I didn’t pick out the perfect going-away dress to have it wasted,” she snappedback, taking my hand. “Come with me, Bella.”I tugged against her hold, stretching up on my toes to kiss him one more time.She jerked my arm impatiently, hauling me away from him. There were a fewchuckles from the watching guests. I gave up then and let her lead me into theempty house.She looked annoyed.“Sorry, Alice,” I apologized.“I don’t blame you, Bella.” She sighed. “You don’t seem to be able help yourself.”I giggled at her martyred expression, and she scowled.“Thank you, Alice. It was the most beautiful wedding anyone ever had,” I told herearnestly. “Everything was exactly right. You’re the best, smartest, most talentedsister in the whole world.”That thawed her out; she smiled a huge smile. “I’m glad you liked it.”Renée and Esme were waiting upstairs. The three of them quickly had me out ofmy dress and into Alice’s deep blue going-away ensemble. I was grateful whensomeone pulled the pins out of my hair and let it fall loose down my back, wavyfrom the braids, saving me from a hairpin headache later. My mother’s tearsstreamed without a break the entire time.“I’ll call you when I know where I’m going,” I promised as I hugged her goodbye.I knew the honeymoon secret was probably driving her crazy; my mother hatedsecrets, unless she was in on them.“I’ll tell you as soon as she’s safely away,” Alice outdid me, smirking at mywounded expression. How unfair, for me to be the last to know.“You have to visit me and Phil very, very soon. It’s your turn to go south—see thesun for once,” Renée said.
    • 57“It didn’t rain today,” I reminded her, avoiding her request.“A miracle.”“Everything’s ready,” Alice said. “Your suitcases are in the car—Jasper’s bringingit around.” She pulled me back toward the stairs with Renée following, stillhalfway embracing me.“I love you, Mom,” I whispered as we descended. “I’m so glad you have Phil. Takecare of each other.”“I love you, too, Bella, honey.”“Goodbye, Mom. I love you,” I said again, my throat thick.Edward was waiting at the bottom of the stairs. I took his outstretched hand butleaned away, scanning the little crowd that was waiting to see us off.“Dad?” I asked, my eyes searching.“Over here,” Edward murmured. He pulled me through the guests; they made apathway for us. We found Charlie leaning awkwardly against the wall behindeveryone else, looking a little like he was hiding. The red rims around his eyesexplained why.“Oh, Dad!”I hugged him around the waist, tears streaming again—I was crying so muchtonight. He patted my back.“There, now. You don’t want to miss your plane.”It was hard to talk about love with Charlie—we were so much alike, alwaysreverting to trivial things to avoid embarrassing emotional displays. But this wasno time for being self-conscious.“I love you forever, Dad,” I told him. “Don’t forget that.”“You, too, Bells. Always have, always will.”I kissed his cheek at the same time that he kissed mine.“Call me,” he said.“Soon,” I promised, knowing this was all I could promise. Just a phone call. Myfather and my mother could not be allowed to see me again; I would be toodifferent, and much, much too dangerous.
    • 58“Go on, then,” he said gruffly. “Don’t want to be late.”The guests made another aisle for us. Edward pulled me close to his side as wemade our escape.“Are you ready?” he asked.“I am,” I said, and I knew that it was true.Everyone applauded when Edward kissed me on the doorstep. Then he rushedme to the car as the rice storm began. Most of it went wide, but someone,probably Emmett, threw with uncanny precision, and I caught a lot of thericochets off Edward’s back.The car was decorated with more flowers that trailed in streamers along itslength, and long gossamer ribbons that were tied to a dozen shoes—designershoes that looked brand-new—dangling behind the bumper.Edward shielded me from the rice while I climbed in, and then he was in and wewere speeding away as I waved out the window and called “I love you” to theporch, where my families waved back.The last image I registered was one of my parents. Phil had both arms wrappedtenderly around Renée. She had one arm tight around his waist but had her freehand reached out to hold Charlie’s. So many different kinds of love, harmoniousin this one moment. It seemed a very hopeful picture to me.Edward squeezed my hand.“I love you,” he said.I leaned my head against his arm. “That’s why we’re here,” I quoted him.He kissed my hair.As we turned onto the black highway and Edward really hit the accelerator, Iheard a noise over the purr of the engine, coming from the forest behind us. If Icould hear it, then he certainly could. But he said nothing as the sound slowlyfaded in the distance. I said nothing, either.The piercing, heartbroken howling grew fainter and then disappeared entirely.
    • 59 5. ISLE ESME“Houston?” I asked, raising my eyebrows when we reached the gate in Seattle.“Just a stop along the way,” Edward assured me with a grin.It felt like I’d barely fallen asleep when he woke me. I was groggy as he pulled methrough the terminals, struggling to remember how to open my eyes after everyblink. It took me a few minutes to catch up with what was going on when westopped at the international counter to check in for our next flight.“Rio de Janeiro?” I asked with slightly more trepidation.“Another stop,” he told me.The flight to South America was long but comfortable in the wide first-class seat,with Edward’s arms cradled around me. I slept myself out and awoke unusuallyalert as we circled toward the airport with the light of the setting sun slantingthrough the plane’s windows.We didn’t stay in the airport to connect with another flight as I’d expected.Instead we took a taxi through the dark, teeming, living streets of Rio. Unable tounderstand a word of Edward’s Portuguese instructions to the driver, I guessedthat we were off to find a hotel before the next leg of our journey. A sharp twingeof something very close to stage fright twisted in the pit of my stomach as Iconsidered that. The taxi continued through the swarming crowds until theythinned somewhat, and we appeared to be nearing the extreme western edge ofthe city, heading into the ocean.We stopped at the docks.Edward led the way down the long line of white yachts moored in the night-blackened water. The boat he stopped at was smaller than the others, sleeker,obviously built for speed instead of space. Still luxurious, though, and moregraceful than the rest. He leaped in lightly, despite the heavy bags he carried. Hedropped those on the deck and turned to help me carefully over the edge.I watched in silence while he prepared the boat for departure, surprised at howskilled and comfortable he seemed, because he’d never mentioned an interest inboating before. But then again, he was good at just about everything.As we headed due east into the open ocean, I reviewed basic geography in myhead. As far as I could remember, there wasn’t much east of Brazil… until you gotto Africa.
    • 60But Edward sped forward while the lights of Rio faded and ultimatelydisappeared behind us. On his face was a familiar exhilarated smile, the oneproduced by any form of speed. The boat plunged through the waves and I wasshowered with sea spray.Finally the curiosity I’d suppressed so long got the best of me.“Are we going much farther?” I asked.It wasn’t like him to forget that I was human, but I wondered if he planned for usto live on this small craft for any length of time.“About another half hour.” His eyes took in my hands, clenched on the seat, andhe grinned.Oh well, I thought to myself. He was a vampire, after all. Maybe we were going toAtlantis.Twenty minutes later, he called my name over the roar of the engine.“Bella, look there.” He pointed straight ahead.I saw only blackness at first, and the moon’s white trail across the water. But Isearched the space where he pointed until I found a low black shape breakinginto the sheen of moonlight on the waves. As I squinted into the darkness, thesilhouette became more detailed. The shape grew into a squat, irregular triangle,with one side trailing longer than the other before sinking into the waves. Wedrew closer, and I could see the outline was feathery, swaying to the light breeze.And then my eyes refocused and the pieces all made sense: a small island rose outof the water ahead of us, waving with palm fronds, a beach glowing pale in thelight of the moon.“Where are we?” I murmured in wonder while he shifted course, heading aroundto the north end of the island.He heard me, despite the noise of the engine, and smiled a wide smile thatgleamed in the moonlight.“This is Isle Esme.”The boat slowed dramatically, drawing with precision into position against ashort dock constructed of wooden planks, bleached into whiteness by the moon.The engine cut off, and the silence that followed was profound. There wasnothing but the waves, slapping lightly against the boat, and the rustle of thebreeze in the palms. The air was warm, moist, and fragrant—like the steam leftbehind after a hot shower.
    • 61“Isle Esme?” My voice was low, but it still sounded too loud as it broke into thequiet night.“A gift from Carlisle—Esme offered to let us borrow it.”A gift. Who gives an island as a gift? I frowned. I hadn’t realized that Edward’sextreme generosity was a learned behavior.He placed the suitcases on the dock and then turned back, smiling his perfectsmile as he reached for me. Instead of taking my hand, he pulled me right up intohis arms.“Aren’t you supposed to wait for the threshold?” I asked, breathless, as he sprunglightly out of the boat.He grinned. “I’m nothing if not thorough.”Gripping the handles of both huge steamer trunks in one hand and cradling me inthe other arm, he carried me up the dock and onto a pale sand pathway throughthe dark vegetation.For a short while it was pitch black in the jungle-like growth, and then I could seea warm light ahead. It was about at the point when I realized the light was ahouse—the two bright, perfect squares were wide windows framing a front door—that the stage fright attacked again, more forcefully than before, worse than whenI’d thought we were headed for a hotel.My heart thudded audibly against my ribs, and my breath seemed to get stuck inmy throat. I felt Edward’s eyes on my face, but I refused to meet his gaze. I staredstraight ahead, seeing nothing.He didn’t ask what I was thinking, which was out of character for him. I guessedthat meant that he was just as nervous as I suddenly was.He set the suitcases on the deep porch to open the doors—they were unlocked.Edward looked down at me, waiting until I met his gaze before he steppedthrough the threshold.He carried me through the house, both of us very quiet, flipping on lights as hewent. My vague impression of the house was that it was quite large for a tinyisland, and oddly familiar. I’d gotten used to the pale-on-pale color schemepreferred by the Cullens; it felt like home. I couldn’t focus on any specifics,though. The violent pulse beating behind my ears made everything a little blurry.Then Edward stopped and turned on the last light.
    • 62The room was big and white, and the far wall was mostly glass—standard décorfor my vampires. Outside, the moon was bright on white sand and, just a fewyards away from the house, glistening waves. But I barely noted that part. I wasmore focused on the absolutely huge white bed in the center of the room, hungwith billowy clouds of mosquito netting.Edward set me on my feet.“I’ll… go get the luggage.”The room was too warm, stuffier than the tropical night outside. A bead of sweatdewed up on the nape of my neck. I walked slowly forward until I could reach outand touch the foamy netting. For some reason I felt the need to make sureeverything was real.I didn’t hear Edward return. Suddenly, his wintry finger caressed the back of myneck, wiping away the drop of perspiration.“It’s a little hot here,” he said apologetically. “I thought… that would be best.”“Thorough,” I murmured under my breath, and he chuckled. It was a nervoussound, rare for Edward.“I tried to think of everything that would make this… easier,” he admitted.I swallowed loudly, still facing away from him. Had there ever been a honeymoonlike this before?I knew the answer to that. No. There had not.“I was wondering,” Edward said slowly, “if… first… maybe you’d like to take amidnight swim with me?” He took a deep breath, and his voice was more at easewhen he spoke again. “The water will be very warm. This is the kind of beach youapprove of.”“Sounds nice.” My voice broke.“I’m sure you’d like a human minute or two.… It was a long journey.”I nodded woodenly. I felt barely human; maybe a few minutes alone would help.His lips brushed against my throat, just below my ear. He chuckled once and hiscool breath tickled my overheated skin. “Don’t take too long, Mrs. Cullen.”I jumped a little at the sound of my new name.
    • 63His lips brushed down my neck to the tip of my shoulder. “I’ll wait for you in thewater.”He walked past me to the French door that opened right onto the beach sand. Onthe way, he shrugged out of his shirt, dropping it on the floor, and then slippedthrough the door into the moonlit night. The sultry, salty air swirled into theroom behind him.Did my skin burst into flames? I had to look down to check. Nope, nothing wasburning. At least, not visibly.I reminded myself to breathe, and then I stumbled toward the giant suitcase thatEdward had opened on top of a low white dresser. It must be mine, because myfamiliar bag of toiletries was right on top, and there was a lot of pink in there, butI didn’t recognize even one article of clothing. As I pawed through the neatlyfolded piles—looking for something familiar and comfortable, a pair of old sweatsmaybe—it came to my attention that there was an awful lot of sheer lace andskimpy satin in my hands. Lingerie. Very lingerie-ish lingerie, with French tags.I didn’t know how or when, but someday, Alice was going to pay for this.Giving up, I went to the bathroom and peeked out through the long windows thatopened to the same beach as the French doors. I couldn’t see him; I guessed hewas there in the water, not bothering to come up for air. In the sky above, themoon was lopsided, almost full, and the sand was bright white under its shine. Asmall movement caught my eye—draped over a bend in one of the palm trees thatfringed the beach, the rest of his clothes were swaying in the light breeze.A rush of heat flashed across my skin again.I took a couple of deep breaths and then went to the mirrors above the longstretch of counters. I looked exactly like I’d been sleeping on a plane all day. Ifound my brush and yanked it harshly through the snarls on the back of my neckuntil they were smoothed out and the bristles were full of hair. I brushed myteeth meticulously, twice. Then I washed my face and splashed water on the backof my neck, which was feeling feverish. That felt so good that I washed my armsas well, and finally I decided to just give up and take the shower. I knew it wasridiculous to shower before swimming, but I needed to calm down, and hot waterwas one reliable way to do that.Also, shaving my legs again seemed like a pretty good idea.When I was done, I grabbed a huge white towel off the counter and wrapped itunder my arms.
    • 64Then I was faced with a dilemma I hadn’t considered. What was I supposed toput on? Not a swimsuit, obviously. But it seemed silly to put my clothes back on,too. I didn’t even want to think about the things Alice had packed for me.My breathing started to accelerate again and my hands trembled—so much forthe calming effects of the shower. I started to feel a little dizzy, apparently a full-scale panic attack on the way. I sat down on the cool tile floor in my big towel andput my head between my knees. I prayed he wouldn’t decide to come look for mebefore I could pull myself together. I could imagine what he would think if he sawme going to pieces this way. It wouldn’t be hard for him to convince himself thatwe were making a mistake.And I wasn’t freaking out because I thought we were making a mistake. Not at all.I was freaking out because I had no idea how to do this, and I was afraid to walkout of this room and face the unknown. Especially in French lingerie. I knew Iwasn’t ready for that yet.This felt exactly like having to walk out in front of a theater full of thousands withno idea what my lines were.How did people do this—swallow all their fears and trust someone else soimplicitly with every imperfection and fear they had—with less than the absolutecommitment Edward had given me? If it weren’t Edward out there, if I didn’tknow in every cell of my body that he loved me as much as I loved him—unconditionally and irrevocably and, to be honest, irrationally—I’d never be ableto get up off this floor.But it was Edward out there, so I whispered the words “Don’t be a coward” undermy breath and scrambled to my feet. I hitched the towel tighter under my armsand marched determinedly from the bathroom. Past the suitcase full of lace andthe big bed without looking at either. Out the open glass door onto the powder-fine sand.Everything was black-and-white, leached colorless by the moon. I walked slowlyacross the warm powder, pausing beside the curved tree where he had left hisclothes. I laid my hand against the rough bark and checked my breathing to makesure it was even. Or even enough.I looked across the low ripples, black in the darkness, searching for him.He wasn’t hard to find. He stood, his back to me, waist deep in the midnightwater, staring up at the oval moon. The pallid light of the moon turned his skin aperfect white, like the sand, like the moon itself, and made his wet hair black asthe ocean. He was motionless, his hands resting palms down against the water;the low waves broke around him as if he were a stone. I stared at the smooth linesof his back, his shoulders, his arms, his neck, the flawless shape of him.…
    • 65The fire was no longer a flash burn across my skin—it was slow and deep now; itsmoldered away all my awkwardness, my shy uncertainty. I slipped the towel offwithout hesitation, leaving it on the tree with his clothes, and walked out into thewhite light; it made me pale as the snowy sand, too.I couldn’t hear the sound of my footsteps as I walked to the water’s edge, but Iguessed that he could. Edward did not turn. I let the gentle swells break over mytoes, and found that he’d been right about the temperature—it was very warm,like bath water. I stepped in, walking carefully across the invisible ocean floor,but my care was unnecessary; the sand continued perfectly smooth, slopinggently toward Edward. I waded through the weightless current till I was at hisside, and then I placed my hand lightly over his cool hand lying on the water.“Beautiful,” I said, looking up at the moon, too.“It’s all right,” he answered, unimpressed. He turned slowly to face me; littlewaves rolled away from his movement and broke against my skin. His eyeslooked silver in his ice-colored face. He twisted his hand up so that he could twineour fingers beneath the surface of the water. It was warm enough that his coolskin did not raise goose bumps on mine.“But I wouldn’t use the word beautiful,” he continued. “Not with you standinghere in comparison.”I half-smiled, then raised my free hand—it didn’t tremble now—and placed it overhis heart. White on white; we matched, for once. He shuddered the tiniest bit atmy warm touch. His breath came rougher now.“I promised we would try,” he whispered, suddenly tense. “If… if I do somethingwrong, if I hurt you, you must tell me at once.”I nodded solemnly, keeping my eyes on his. I took another step through thewaves and leaned my head against his chest.“Don’t be afraid,” I murmured. “We belong together.”I was abruptly overwhelmed by the truth of my own words. This moment was soperfect, so right, there was no way to doubt it.His arms wrapped around me, holding me against him, summer and winter. Itfelt like every nerve ending in my body was a live wire.“Forever,” he agreed, and then pulled us gently into deeper water.The sun, hot on the bare skin of my back, woke me in the morning. Late morning,maybe afternoon, I wasn’t sure. Everything besides the time was clear, though; Iknew exactly where I was—the bright room with the big white bed, brilliant
    • 66sunlight streaming through the open doors. The clouds of netting would softenthe shine.I didn’t open my eyes. I was too happy to change anything, no matter how small.The only sounds were the waves outside, our breathing, my heartbeat.…I was comfortable, even with the baking sun. His cool skin was the perfectantidote to the heat. Lying across his wintry chest, his arms wound around me,felt very easy and natural. I wondered idly what I’d been so panicky about lastnight. My fears all seemed silly now.His fingers softly trailed down the contours of my spine, and I knew that he knewI was awake. I kept my eyes shut and tightened my arms around his neck, holdingmyself closer to him.He didn’t speak; his fingers moved up and down my back, barely touching it as helightly traced patterns on my skin.I would have been happy to lie here forever, to never disturb this moment, but mybody had other ideas. I laughed at my impatient stomach. It seemed sort ofprosaic to be hungry after all that had passed last night. Like being brought backdown to earth from some great height.“What’s funny?” he murmured, still stroking my back. The sound of his voice,serious and husky, brought with it a deluge of memories from the night, and I felta blush color my face and neck.To answer his question, my stomach growled. I laughed again. “You just can’tescape being human for very long.”I waited, but he did not laugh with me. Slowly, sinking through the many layersof bliss that clouded my head, came the realization of a different atmosphereoutside my own glowing sphere of happiness.I opened my eyes; the first thing I saw was the pale, almost silvery skin of histhroat, the arc of his chin above my face. His jaw was taut. I propped myself upon my elbow so I could see his face.He was staring at the frothy canopy above us, and he didn’t look at me as Istudied his grave features. His expression was a shock—it sent a physical joltthrough my body.“Edward,” I said, a strange little catch in my throat, “what is it? What’s wrong?”“You have to ask?” His voice was hard, cynical.
    • 67My first instinct, the product of a lifetime of insecurities, was to wonder what Ihad done wrong. I thought through everything that had happened, but I couldn’tfind any sour note in the memory. It had all been simpler than I’d expected; we’dfit together like corresponding pieces, made to match up. This had given me asecret satisfaction—we were compatible physically, as well as all the other ways.Fire and ice, somehow existing together without destroying each other. Moreproof that I belonged with him.I couldn’t think of any part that would make him look like this—so severe andcold. What had I missed?His finger smoothed the worried lines on my forehead.“What are you thinking?” he whispered.“You’re upset. I don’t understand. Did I… ?” I couldn’t finish.His eyes tightened. “How badly are you hurt, Bella? The truth—don’t try todownplay it.”“Hurt?” I repeated; my voice came out higher than usual because the word tookme so by surprise.He raised one eyebrow, his lips a tight line.I made a quick assessment, stretching my body automatically, tensing and flexingmy muscles. There was stiffness, and a lot of soreness, too, it was true, but mostlythere was the odd sensation that my bones all had become unhinged at the joints,and I had changed halfway into the consistency of a jellyfish. It was not anunpleasant feeling.And then I was a little angry, because he was darkening this most perfect of allmornings with his pessimistic assumptions.“Why would you jump to that conclusion? I’ve never been better than I am now.”His eyes closed. “Stop that.”“Stop what?”“Stop acting like I’m not a monster for having agreed to this.”“Edward!” I whispered, really upset now. He was pulling my bright memorythrough the darkness, staining it. “Don’t ever say that.”He didn’t open his eyes; it was like he didn’t want to see me.
    • 68“Look at yourself, Bella. Then tell me I’m not a monster.”Wounded, shocked, I followed his instruction unthinkingly and then gasped.What had happened to me? I couldn’t make sense of the fluffy white snow thatclung to my skin. I shook my head, and a cascade of white drifted out of my hair.I pinched one soft white bit between my fingers. It was a piece of down.“Why am I covered in feathers?” I asked, confused.He exhaled impatiently. “I bit a pillow. Or two. That’s not what I’m talkingabout.”“You… bit a pillow? Why?”“Look, Bella!” he almost growled. He took my hand—very gingerly—and stretchedmy arm out. “Look at that.”This time, I saw what he meant.Under the dusting of feathers, large purplish bruises were beginning to blossomacross the pale skin of my arm. My eyes followed the trail they made up to myshoulder, and then down across my ribs. I pulled my hand free to poke at adiscoloration on my left forearm, watching it fade where I touched and thenreappear. It throbbed a little.So lightly that he was barely touching me, Edward placed his hand against thebruises on my arm, one at a time, matching his long fingers to the patterns.“Oh,” I said.I tried to remember this—to remember pain—but I couldn’t. I couldn’t recall amoment when his hold had been too tight, his hands too hard against me. I onlyremembered wanting him to hold me tighter, and being pleased when he did.…“I’m… so sorry, Bella,” he whispered while I stared at the bruises. “I knew betterthan this. I should not have—” He made a low, revolted sound in the back of histhroat. “I am more sorry than I can tell you.”He threw his arm over his face and became perfectly still.I sat for one long moment in total astonishment, trying to come to terms—nowthat I understood it—with his misery. It was so contrary to the way that I felt thatit was difficult to process.
    • 69The shock wore off slowly, leaving nothing in its absence. Emptiness. My mindwas blank. I couldn’t think of what to say. How could I explain it to him in theright way? How could I make him as happy as I was—or as I had been, a momentago?I touched his arm, and he didn’t respond. I wrapped my fingers around his wristand tried to pry his arm off his face, but I could have been yanking on a sculpturefor all the good it did me.“Edward.”He didn’t move.“Edward?”Nothing. So, this would be a monologue, then.“I’m not sorry, Edward. I’m… I can’t even tell you. I’m so happy. That doesn’tcover it. Don’t be angry. Don’t. I’m really f—”“Do not say the word fine.” His voice was ice cold. “If you value my sanity, do notsay that you are fine.”“But I am,” I whispered.“Bella,” he almost moaned. “Don’t.”“No. You don’t, Edward.”He moved his arm; his gold eyes watched me warily.“Don’t ruin this,” I told him. “I. Am. Happy.”“I’ve already ruined this,” he whispered.“Cut it out,” I snapped.I heard his teeth grind together.“Ugh!” I groaned. “Why can’t you just read my mind already? It’s so inconvenientto be a mental mute!”His eyes widened a little bit, distracted in spite of himself.“That’s a new one. You love that I can’t read your mind.”“Not today.”
    • 70He stared at me. “Why?”I threw my hands up in frustration, feeling an ache in my shoulder that I ignored.My palms fell back against his chest with a sharp smack. “Because all this angstwould be completely unnecessary if you could see how I feel right now! Or fiveminutes ago, anyway. I was perfectly happy. Totally and completely blissed out.Now—well, I’m sort of pissed, actually.”“You should be angry at me.”“Well, I am. Does that make you feel better?”He sighed. “No. I don’t think anything could make me feel better now.”“That,” I snapped. “That right there is why I’m angry. You are killing my buzz,Edward.”He rolled his eyes and shook his head.I took a deep breath. I was feeling more of the soreness now, but it wasn’t thatbad. Sort of like the day after lifting weights. I’d done that with Renée during oneof her fitness obsessions. Sixty-five lunges with ten pounds in each hand. Icouldn’t walk the next day. This was not as painful as that had been by half.I swallowed my irritation and tried to make my voice soothing. “We knew thiswas going to be tricky. I thought that was assumed. And then—well, it was a loteasier than I thought it would be. And this is really nothing.” I brushed myfingers along my arm. “I think for a first time, not knowing what to expect, we didamazing. With a little practice—”His expression was suddenly so livid that I broke off mid-sentence.“Assumed? Did you expect this, Bella? Were you anticipating that I would hurtyou? Were you thinking it would be worse? Do you consider the experiment asuccess because you can walk away from it? No broken bones—that equals avictory?”I waited, letting him get it all out. Then I waited some more while his breathingwent back to normal. When his eyes were calm, I answered, speaking with slowprecision.“I didn’t know what to expect—but I definitely did not expect how… how… justwonderful and perfect it was.” My voice dropped to a whisper, my eyes slippedfrom his face down to my hands. “I mean, I don’t know how it was for you, but itwas like that for me.”A cool finger pulled my chin back up.
    • 71“Is that what you’re worried about?” he said through his teeth. “That I didn’tenjoy myself?”My eyes stayed down. “I know it’s not the same. You’re not human. I just wastrying to explain that, for a human, well, I can’t imagine that life gets any betterthan that.”He was quiet for so long that, finally, I had to look up. His face was softer now,thoughtful.“It seems that I have more to apologize for.” He frowned. “I didn’t dream that youwould construe the way I feel about what I did to you to mean that last nightwasn’t… well, the best night of my existence. But I don’t want to think of it thatway, not when you were . . .”My lips curved up a little at the edges. “Really? The best ever?” I asked in a smallvoice.He took my face between his hands, still introspective. “I spoke to Carlisle afteryou and I made our bargain, hoping he could help me. Of course he warned methat this would be very dangerous for you.” A shadow crossed his expression. “Hehad faith in me, though—faith I didn’t deserve.”I started to protest, and he put two fingers over my lips before I could comment.“I also asked him what I should expect. I didn’t know what it would be for me…what with my being a vampire.” He smiled halfheartedly. “Carlisle told me it wasa very powerful thing, like nothing else. He told me physical love was something Ishould not treat lightly. With our rarely changing temperaments, strong emotionscan alter us in permanent ways. But he said I did not need to worry about thatpart—you had already altered me so completely.” This time his smile was moregenuine.“I spoke to my brothers, too. They told me it was a very great pleasure. Secondonly to drinking human blood.” A line creased his brow. “But I’ve tasted yourblood, and there could be no blood more potent than that.… I don’t think theywere wrong, really. Just that it was different for us. Something more.”“It was more. It was everything.”“That doesn’t change the fact that it was wrong. Even if it were possible that youreally did feel that way.”“What does that mean? Do you think I’m making this up? Why?”“To ease my guilt. I can’t ignore the evidence, Bella. Or your history of trying tolet me off the hook when I make mistakes.”
    • 72I grabbed his chin and leaned forward so that our faces were inches apart. “Youlisten to me, Edward Cullen. I am not pretending anything for your sake, okay? Ididn’t even know there was a reason to make you feel better until you startedbeing all miserable. I’ve never been so happy in all my life—I wasn’t this happywhen you decided that you loved me more than you wanted to kill me, or the firstmorning I woke up and you were there waiting for me.… Not when I heard yourvoice in the ballet studio”—he flinched at the old memory of my close call with ahunting vampire, but I didn’t pause—“or when you said ‘I do’ and I realized that,somehow, I get to keep you forever. Those are the happiest memories I have, andthis is better than any of it. So just deal with it.”He touched the frown line between my eyebrows. “I’m making you unhappy now.I don’t want to do that.”“Then don’t you be unhappy. That’s the only thing that’s wrong here.”His eyes tightened, then he took a deep breath and nodded. “You’re right. Thepast is past and I can’t do anything to change it. There’s no sense in letting mymood sour this time for you. I’ll do whatever I can to make you happy now.”I examined his face suspiciously, and he gave me a serene smile.“Whatever makes me happy?”My stomach growled at the same time that I asked.“You’re hungry,” he said quickly. He was swiftly out of the bed, stirring up a cloudof feathers. Which reminded me.“So, why exactly did you decide to ruin Esme’s pillows?” I asked, sitting up andshaking more down from my hair.He had already pulled on a pair of loose khaki pants, and he stood by the door,rumpling his hair, dislodging a few feathers of his own.“I don’t know if I decided to do anything last night,” he muttered. “We’re justlucky it was the pillows and not you.” He inhaled deeply and then shook his head,as if shaking off the dark thought. A very authentic-looking smile spread acrosshis face, but I guessed it took a lot of work to put it there.I slid carefully off the high bed and stretched again, more aware, now, of theaches and sore spots. I heard him gasp. He turned away from me, and his handsballed up, knuckles white.“Do I look that hideous?” I asked, working to keep my tone light. His breathcaught, but he didn’t turn, probably to hide his expression from me. I walked tothe bathroom to check for myself.
    • 73I stared at my naked body in the full-length mirror behind the door.I’d definitely had worse. There was a faint shadow across one of my cheekbones,and my lips were a little swollen, but other than that, my face was fine. The rest ofme was decorated with patches of blue and purple. I concentrated on the bruisesthat would be the hardest to hide—my arms and my shoulders. They weren’t sobad. My skin marked up easily. By the time a bruise showed I’d usually forgottenhow I’d come by it. Of course, these were just developing. I’d look even worsetomorrow. That would not make things any easier.I looked at my hair, then, and groaned.“Bella?” He was right there behind me as soon as I’d made a sound.“I’ll never get this all out of my hair!” I pointed to my head, where it looked like achicken was nesting. I started picking at the feathers.“You would be worried about your hair,” he mumbled, but he came to standbehind me, pulling out the feathers much more quickly.“How did you keep from laughing at this? I look ridiculous.”He didn’t answer; he just kept plucking. And I knew the answer anyway—therewas nothing that would be funny to him in this mood.“This isn’t going to work,” I sighed after a minute. “It’s all dried in. I’m going tohave to try to wash it out.” I turned around, wrapping my arms around his coolwaist. “Do you want to help me?”“I’d better find some food for you,” he said in a quiet voice, and he gentlyunwound my arms. I sighed as he disappeared, moving too fast.It looked like my honeymoon was over. The thought put a big lump in my throat.When I was mostly feather-free and dressed in an unfamiliar white cotton dressthat concealed the worst of the violet blotches, I padded off barefoot to where thesmell of eggs and bacon and cheddar cheese was coming from.Edward stood in front of the stainless steel stove, sliding an omelet onto the lightblue plate waiting on the counter. The scent of the food overwhelmed me. I feltlike I could eat the plate and the frying pan, too; my stomach snarled.“Here,” he said. He turned with a smile on his face and set the plate on a smalltiled table.I sat in one of the two metal chairs and started snarfing down the hot eggs. Theyburned my throat, but I didn’t care.
    • 74He sat down across from me. “I’m not feeding you often enough.”I swallowed and then reminded him, “I was asleep. This is really good, by theway. Impressive for someone who doesn’t eat.”“Food Network,” he said, flashing my favorite crooked smile.I was happy to see it, happy that he seemed more like his normal self.“Where did the eggs come from?”“I asked the cleaning crew to stock the kitchen. A first, for this place. I’ll have toask them to deal with the feathers.… ” He trailed off, his gaze fixed on a spaceabove my head. I didn’t respond, trying to avoid saying anything that would upsethim again.I ate everything, though he’d made enough for two.“Thank you,” I told him. I leaned across the table to kiss him. He kissed me backautomatically, and then suddenly stiffened and leaned away.I gritted my teeth, and the question I meant to ask came out sounding like anaccusation. “You aren’t going to touch me again while we’re here, are you?”He hesitated, then half-smiled and raised his hand to stroke my cheek. Hisfingers lingered softly on my skin, and I couldn’t help leaning my face into hispalm.“You know that’s not what I meant.”He sighed and dropped his hand. “I know. And you’re right.” He paused, liftinghis chin slightly. And then he spoke again with firm conviction. “I will not makelove with you until you’ve been changed. I will never hurt you again.”
    • 75 6. DISTRACTIONSMy entertainment became the number-one priority on Isle Esme. We snorkeled(well, I snorkeled while he flaunted his ability to go without oxygen indefinitely).We explored the small jungle that ringed the rocky little peak. We visited theparrots that lived in the canopy on the south end of the island. We watched thesunset from the rocky western cove. We swam with the porpoises that played inthe warm, shallow waters there. Or at least I did; when Edward was in the water,the porpoises disappeared as if a shark was near.I knew what was going on. He was trying to keep me busy, distracted, so I thatwouldn’t continue badgering him about the sex thing. Whenever I tried to talkhim into taking it easy with one of the million DVDs under the big-screen plasmaTV, he would lure me out of the house with magic words like coral reefs andsubmerged caves and sea turtles. We were going, going, going all day, so that Ifound myself completely famished and exhausted when the sun eventually set.I drooped over my plate after I finished dinner every night; once I’d actuallyfallen asleep right at the table and he’d had to carry me to bed. Part of it was thatEdward always made too much food for one, but I was so hungry after swimmingand climbing all day that I ate most of it. Then, full and worn out, I could barelykeep my eyes open. All part of the plan, no doubt.Exhaustion didn’t help much with my attempts at persuasion. But I didn’t giveup. I tried reasoning, pleading, and grouching, all to no avail. I was usuallyunconscious before I could really press my case far. And then my dreams felt soreal—nightmares mostly, made more vivid, I guessed, by the too-bright colors ofthe island—that I woke up tired no matter how long I slept.About a week or so after we’d gotten to the island, I decided to try compromise. Ithad worked for us in the past.I was sleeping in the blue room now. The cleaning crew wasn’t due until the nextday, and so the white room still had a snowy blanket of down. The blue room wassmaller, the bed more reasonably proportioned. The walls were dark, paneled inteak, and the fittings were all luxurious blue silk.I’d taken to wearing some of Alice’s lingerie collection to sleep in at night—whichweren’t so revealing compared to the scanty bikinis she’d packed for me when itcame right down to it. I wondered if she’d seen a vision of why I would want suchthings, and then shuddered, embarrassed by that thought.I’d started out slow with innocent ivory satins, worried that revealing more of myskin would be the opposite of helpful, but ready to try anything. Edward seemedto notice nothing, as if I were wearing the same ratty old sweats I wore at home.
    • 76The bruises were much better now—yellowing in some places and disappearingaltogether in others—so tonight I pulled out one of the scarier pieces as I gotready in the paneled bathroom. It was black, lacy, and embarrassing to look ateven when it wasn’t on. I was careful not to look in the mirror before I went backto the bedroom. I didn’t want to lose my nerve.I had the satisfaction of watching his eyes pop open wide for just a second beforehe controlled his expression.“What do you think?” I asked, pirouetting so that he could see every angle.He cleared his throat. “You look beautiful. You always do.”“Thanks,” I said a bit sourly.I was too tired to resist climbing quickly into the soft bed. He put his armsaround me and pulled me against his chest, but this was routine—it was too hotto sleep without his cool body close.“I’ll make you a deal,” I said sleepily.“I will not make any deals with you,” he answered.“You haven’t even heard what I’m offering.”“It doesn’t matter.”I sighed. “Dang it. And I really wanted… Oh well.”He rolled his eyes.I closed mine and let the bait sit there. I yawned.It took only a minute—not long enough for me to zonk out.“All right. What is it you want?”I gritted my teeth for a second, fighting a smile. If there was one thing he couldn’tresist, it was an opportunity to give me something.“Well, I was thinking… I know that the whole Dartmouth thing was just supposedto be a cover story, but honestly, one semester of college probably wouldn’t killme,” I said, echoing his words from long ago, when he’d tried to persuade me toput off becoming a vampire. “Charlie would get a thrill out of Dartmouth stories, Ibet. Sure, it might be embarrassing if I can’t keep up with all the brainiacs. Still…eighteen, nineteen. It’s really not such a big difference. It’s not like I’m going toget crow’s feet in the next year.”
    • 77He was silent for a long moment. Then, in a low voice, he said, “You would wait.You would stay human.”I held my tongue, letting the offer sink in.“Why are you doing this to me?” he said through his teeth, his tone suddenlyangry. “Isn’t it hard enough without all of this?” He grabbed a handful of lace thatwas ruffled on my thigh. For a moment, I thought he was going to rip it from theseam. Then his hand relaxed. “It doesn’t matter. I won’t make any deals withyou.”“I want to go to college.”“No, you don’t. And there is nothing that is worth risking your life again. That’sworth hurting you.”“But I do want to go. Well, it’s not college as much as it’s that I want—I want to behuman a little while longer.”He closed his eyes and exhaled through his nose. “You are making me insane,Bella. Haven’t we had this argument a million times, you always begging to be avampire without delay?”“Yes, but… well, I have a reason to be human that I didn’t have before.”“What’s that?”“Guess,” I said, and I dragged myself off the pillows to kiss him.He kissed me back, but not in a way that made me think I was winning. It wasmore like he was being careful not to hurt my feelings; he was completely,maddeningly in control of himself. Gently, he pulled me away after a moment andcradled me against his chest.“You are so human, Bella. Ruled by your hormones.” He chuckled.“That’s the whole point, Edward. I like this part of being human. I don’t want togive it up yet. I don’t want to wait through years of being a blood-crazed newbornfor some part of this to come back to me.”I yawned, and he smiled.“You’re tired. Sleep, love.” He started humming the lullaby he’d composed for mewhen we first met.“I wonder why I’m so tired,” I muttered sarcastically. “That couldn’t be part ofyour scheme or anything.”
    • 78He just chuckled once and went back to humming.“For as tired as I’ve been, you’d think I’d sleep better.”The song broke off. “You’ve been sleeping like the dead, Bella. You haven’t said aword in your sleep since we got here. If it weren’t for the snoring, I’d worry youwere slipping into a coma.”I ignored the snoring jibe; I didn’t snore. “I haven’t been tossing? That’s weird.Usually I’m all over the bed when I’m having nightmares. And shouting.”“You’ve been having nightmares?”“Vivid ones. They make me so tired.” I yawned. “I can’t believe I haven’t beenbabbling about them all night.”“What are they about?”“Different things—but the same, you know, because of the colors.”“Colors?”“It’s all so bright and real. Usually, when I’m dreaming, I know that I am. Withthese, I don’t know I’m asleep. It makes them scarier.”He sounded disturbed when he spoke again. “What is frightening you?”I shuddered slightly. “Mostly . . .” I hesitated.“Mostly?” he prompted.I wasn’t sure why, but I didn’t want to tell him about the child in my recurringnightmare; there was something private about that particular horror. So, insteadof giving him the full description, I gave him just one element. Certainly enoughto frighten me or anyone else.“The Volturi,” I whispered.He hugged me tighter. “They aren’t going to bother us anymore. You’ll beimmortal soon, and they’ll have no reason.”I let him comfort me, feeling a little guilty that he’d misunderstood. Thenightmares weren’t like that, exactly. It wasn’t that I was afraid for myself—I wasafraid for the boy.He wasn’t the same boy as that first dream—the vampire child with the bloodredeyes who sat on a pile of dead people I loved. This boy I’d dreamed of four times
    • 79in the last week was definitely human; his cheeks were flushed and his wide eyeswere a soft green. But just like the other child, he shook with fear and desperationas the Volturi closed in on us.In this dream that was both new and old, I simply had to protect the unknownchild. There was no other option. At the same time, I knew that I would fail.He saw the desolation on my face. “What can I do to help?”I shook it off. “They’re just dreams, Edward.”“Do you want me to sing to you? I’ll sing all night if it will keep the bad dreamsaway.”“They’re not all bad. Some are nice. So… colorful. Underwater, with the fish andthe coral. It all seems like it’s really happening—I don’t know that I’m dreaming.Maybe this island is the problem. It’s really bright here.”“Do you want to go home?”“No. No, not yet. Can’t we stay awhile longer?”“We can stay as long as you want, Bella,” he promised me.“When does the semester start? I wasn’t paying attention before.”He sighed. He may have started humming again, too, but I was under before Icould be sure.Later, when I awoke in the dark, it was with shock. The dream had been so veryreal… so vivid, so sensory.… I gasped aloud, now, disoriented by the dark room.Only a second ago, it seemed, I had been under the brilliant sun.“Bella?” Edward whispered, his arms tight around me, shaking me gently. “Areyou all right, sweetheart?”“Oh,” I gasped again. Just a dream. Not real. To my utter astonishment, tearsoverflowed from my eyes without warning, gushing down my face.“Bella!” he said—louder, alarmed now. “What’s wrong?” He wiped the tears frommy hot cheeks with cold, frantic fingers, but others followed.“It was only a dream.” I couldn’t contain the low sob that broke in my voice. Thesenseless tears were disturbing, but I couldn’t get control of the staggering griefthat gripped me. I wanted so badly for the dream to be real.
    • 80“It’s okay, love, you’re fine. I’m here.” He rocked me back and forth, a little toofast to soothe. “Did you have another nightmare? It wasn’t real, it wasn’t real.”“Not a nightmare.” I shook my head, scrubbing the back of my hand against myeyes. “It was a good dream.” My voice broke again.“Then why are you crying?” he asked, bewildered.“Because I woke up,” I wailed, wrapping my arms around his neck in a chokeholdand sobbing into his throat.He laughed once at my logic, but the sound was tense with concern.“Everything’s all right, Bella. Take deep breaths.”“It was so real,” I cried. “I wanted it to be real.”“Tell me about it,” he urged. “Maybe that will help.”“We were on the beach. . . .” I trailed off, pulling back to look with tear-filled eyesat his anxious angel’s face, dim in the darkness. I stared at him broodingly as theunreasonable grief began to ebb.“And?” he finally prompted.I blinked the tears out of my eyes, torn. “Oh, Edward . . .”“Tell me, Bella,” he pleaded, eyes wild with worry at the pain in my voice.But I couldn’t. Instead I clutched my arms around his neck again and locked mymouth with his feverishly. It wasn’t desire at all—it was need, acute to the point ofpain. His response was instant but quickly followed by his rebuff.He struggled with me as gently as he could in his surprise, holding me away,grasping my shoulders.“No, Bella,” he insisted, looking at me as if he was worried that I’d lost my mind.My arms dropped, defeated, the bizarre tears spilling in a fresh torrent down myface, a new sob rising in my throat. He was right—I must be crazy.He stared at me with confused, anguished eyes.“I’m s-s-s-orry,” I mumbled.But he pulled me to him then, hugging me tightly to his marble chest.
    • 81“I can’t, Bella, I can’t!” His moan was agonized.“Please,” I said, my plea muffled against his skin. “Please, Edward?”I couldn’t tell if he was moved by the tears trembling in my voice, or if he wasunprepared to deal with the suddenness of my attack, or if his need was simply asunbearable in that moment as my own. But whatever the reason, he pulled mylips back to his, surrendering with a groan.And we began where my dream had left off.I stayed very still when I woke up in the morning and tried to keep my breathingeven. I was afraid to open my eyes.I was lying across Edward’s chest, but he was very still and his arms were notwrapped around me. That was a bad sign. I was afraid to admit I was awake andface his anger—no matter whom it was directed at today.Carefully, I peeked through my eyelashes. He was staring up at the dark ceiling,his arms behind his head. I pulled myself up on my elbow so that I could see hisface better. It was smooth, expressionless.“How much trouble am I in?” I asked in a small voice.“Heaps,” he said, but turned his head and smirked at me.I breathed a sigh of relief. “I am sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean… Well, I don’t knowexactly what that was last night.” I shook my head at the memory of the irrationaltears, the crushing grief.“You never did tell me what your dream was about.”“I guess I didn’t—but I sort of showed you what it was about.” I laughednervously.“Oh,” he said. His eyes widened, and then he blinked. “Interesting.”“It was a very good dream,” I murmured. He didn’t comment, so a few secondslater I asked, “Am I forgiven?”“I’m thinking about it.”I sat up, planning to examine myself—there didn’t seem to be any feathers, atleast. But as I moved, an odd wave of vertigo hit. I swayed and fell back againstthe pillows.“Whoa… head rush.”
    • 82His arms were around me then. “You slept for a long time. Twelve hours.”“Twelve?” How strange.I gave myself a quick once-over while I spoke, trying to be inconspicuous about it.I looked fine. The bruises on my arms were still a week old, yellowing. I stretchedexperimentally. I felt fine, too. Well, better than fine, actually.“Is the inventory complete?”I nodded sheepishly. “The pillows all appear to have survived.”“Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for your, er, nightgown.” He nodded towardthe foot of the bed, where several scraps of black lace were strewn across the silksheets.“That’s too bad,” I said. “I liked that one.”“I did, too.”“Were there any other casualties?” I asked timidly.“I’ll have to buy Esme a new bed frame,” he confessed, glancing over his shoulder.I followed his gaze and was shocked to see that large chunks of wood hadapparently been gouged from the left side of the headboard.“Hmm.” I frowned. “You’d think I would have heard that.”“You seem to be extraordinarily unobservant when your attention is otherwiseinvolved.”“I was a bit absorbed,” I admitted, blushing a deep red.He touched my burning cheek and sighed. “I’m really going to miss that.”I stared at his face, searching for any signs of the anger or remorse I feared. Hegazed back at me evenly, his expression calm but otherwise unreadable.“How are you feeling?”He laughed.“What?” I demanded.“You look so guilty—like you’ve committed a crime.”“I feel guilty,” I muttered.
    • 83“So you seduced your all-too-willing husband. That’s not a capital offense.”He seemed to be teasing.My cheeks got hotter. “The word seduced implies a certain amount ofpremeditation.”“Maybe that was the wrong word,” he allowed.“You’re not angry?”He smiled ruefully. “I’m not angry.”“Why not?”“Well . . .” He paused. “I didn’t hurt you, for one thing. It was easier this time, tocontrol myself, to channel the excesses.” His eyes flickered to the damaged frameagain. “Maybe because I had a better idea of what to expect.”A hopeful smile started to spread across my face. “I told you that it was all aboutpractice.”He rolled his eyes.My stomach growled, and he laughed. “Breakfast time for the human?” he asked.“Please,” I said, hopping out of bed. I moved too quickly, though, and had tostagger drunkenly to regain my balance. He caught me before I could stumbleinto the dresser.“Are you all right?”“If I don’t have a better sense of equilibrium in my next life, I’m demanding arefund.”I cooked this morning, frying up some eggs—too hungry to do anything moreelaborate. Impatient, I flipped them onto a plate after just a few minutes.“Since when do you eat eggs sunny-side up?” he asked.“Since now.”“Do you know how many eggs you’ve gone through in the last week?” He pulledthe trash bin out from under the sink—it was full of empty blue cartons.“Weird,” I said after swallowing a scorching bite. “This place is messing with myappetite.” And my dreams, and my already dubious balance. “But I like it here.
    • 84We’ll probably have to leave soon, though, won’t we, to make it to Dartmouth intime? Wow, I guess we need to find a place to live and stuff, too.”He sat down next to me. “You can give up the college pretense now—you’vegotten what you wanted. And we didn’t agree to a deal, so there are no stringsattached.”I snorted. “It wasn’t a pretense, Edward. I don’t spend my free time plotting likesome people do. What can we do to wear Bella out today?” I said in a poorimpression of his voice. He laughed, unashamed. “I really do want a little moretime being human.” I leaned over to run my hand across his bare chest. “I havenot had enough.”He gave me a dubious look. “For this?” he asked, catching my hand as it moveddown his stomach. “Sex was the key all along?” He rolled his eyes. “Why didn’t Ithink of that?” he muttered sarcastically. “I could have saved myself a lot ofarguments.”I laughed. “Yeah, probably.”“You are so human,” he said again.“I know.”A hint of a smile pulled at his lips. “We’re going to Dartmouth? Really?”“I’ll probably fail out in one semester.”“I’ll tutor you.” The smile was wide now. “You’re going to love college.”“Do you think we can find an apartment this late?”He grimaced, looking guilty. “Well, we sort of already have a house there. Youknow, just in case.”“You bought a house?”“Real estate is a good investment.”I raised one eyebrow and then let it go. “So we’re ready, then.”“I’ll have to see if we can keep your ‘before’ car for a little longer. . . .”“Yes, heaven forbid I not be protected from tanks.”He grinned.
    • 85“How much longer can we stay?” I asked.“We’re fine on time. A few more weeks, if you want. And then we can visit Charliebefore we go to New Hampshire. We could spend Christmas with Renée. . . .”His words painted a very happy immediate future, one free of pain for everyoneinvolved. The Jacob-drawer, all but forgotten, rattled, and I amended thethought—for almost everyone.This wasn’t getting any easier. Now that I’d discovered exactly how good beinghuman could be, it was tempting to let my plans drift. Eighteen or nineteen,nineteen or twenty… Did it really matter? I wouldn’t change so much in a year.And being human with Edward… The choice got trickier every day.“A few weeks,” I agreed. And then, because there never seemed to be enoughtime, I added, “So I was thinking—you know what I was saying about practicebefore?”He laughed. “Can you hold on to that thought? I hear a boat. The cleaning crewmust be here.”He wanted me to hold on to that thought. So did that mean he was not going togive me any more trouble about practicing? I smiled.“Let me explain the mess in the white room to Gustavo, and then we can go out.There’s a place in the jungle on the south—”“I don’t want to go out. I am not hiking all over the island today. I want to stayhere and watch a movie.”He pursed his lips, trying not to laugh at my disgruntled tone. “All right, whateveryou’d like. Why don’t you pick one out while I get the door?”“I didn’t hear a knock.”He cocked his head to the side, listening. A half second later, a faint, timid rap onthe door sounded. He grinned and turned for the hallway.I wandered over to the shelves under the big TV and started scanning through thetitles. It was hard to decide where to begin. They had more DVDs than a rentalstore.I could hear Edward’s low, velvet voice as he came back down the hall, conversingfluidly in what I assumed was perfect Portuguese. Another, harsher, human voiceanswered in the same tongue.
    • 86Edward led them into the room, pointing toward the kitchen on his way. The twoBrazilians looked incredibly short and dark next to him. One was a round man,the other a slight female, both their faces creased with lines. Edward gestured tome with a proud smile, and I heard my name mixed in with a flurry of unfamiliarwords. I flushed a little as I thought of the downy mess in the white room, whichthey would soon encounter. The little man smiled at me politely.But the tiny coffee-skinned woman didn’t smile. She stared at me with a mixtureof shock, worry, and most of all, wide-eyed fear. Before I could react, Edwardmotioned for them to follow him toward the chicken coop, and they were gone.When he reappeared, he was alone. He walked swiftly to my side and wrapped hisarms around me.“What’s with her?” I whispered urgently, remembering her panicked expression.He shrugged, unperturbed. “Kaure’s part Ticuna Indian. She was raised to bemore superstitious—or you could call it more aware—than those who live in themodern world. She suspects what I am, or close enough.” He still didn’t soundworried. “They have their own legends here. The Libishomen—a blood-drinkingdemon who preys exclusively on beautiful women.” He leered at me.Beautiful women only? Well, that was kind of flattering.“She looked terrified,” I said.“She is—but mostly she’s worried about you.”“Me?”“She’s afraid of why I have you here, all alone.” He chuckled darkly and thenlooked toward the wall of movies. “Oh well, why don’t you choose something forus to watch? That’s an acceptably human thing to do.”“Yes, I’m sure a movie will convince her that you’re human.” I laughed andclasped my arms securely around his neck, stretching up on my tiptoes. Heleaned down so that I could kiss him, and then his arms tightened around me,lifting me off the floor so he didn’t have to bend.“Movie, schmovie,” I muttered as his lips moved down my throat, twisting myfingers in his bronze hair.Then I heard a gasp, and he put me down abruptly. Kaure stood frozen in thehallway, feathers in her black hair, a large sack of more feathers in her arms, anexpression of horror on her face. She stared at me, her eyes bugging out, as Iblushed and looked down. Then she recovered herself and murmured somethingthat, even in an unfamiliar language, was clearly an apology. Edward smiled and
    • 87answered in a friendly tone. She turned her dark eyes away and continued downthe hall.“She was thinking what I think she was thinking, wasn’t she?” I muttered.He laughed at my convoluted sentence. “Yes.”“Here,” I said, reaching out at random and grabbing a movie. “Put this on and wecan pretend to watch it.”It was an old musical with smiling faces and fluffy dresses on the front.“Very honeymoonish,” Edward approved.While actors on the screen danced their way through a perky introduction song, Ilolled on the sofa, snuggled into Edward’s arms.“Will we move back into the white room now?” I wondered idly.“I don’t know.… I’ve already mangled the headboard in the other room beyondrepair—maybe if we limit the destruction to one area of the house, Esme mightinvite us back someday.”I smiled widely. “So there will be more destruction?”He laughed at my expression. “I think it might be safer if it’s premeditated, ratherthan if I wait for you to assault me again.”“It would only be a matter of time,” I agreed casually, but my pulse was racing inmy veins.“Is there something the matter with your heart?”“Nope. Healthy as a horse.” I paused. “Did you want to go survey the demolitionzone now?”“Maybe it would be more polite to wait until we’re alone. You may not notice metearing the furniture apart, but it would probably scare them.”In truth, I’d already forgotten the people in the other room. “Right. Drat.”Gustavo and Kaure moved quietly through the house while I waited impatientlyfor them to finish and tried to pay attention to the happily-ever-after on thescreen. I was starting to get sleepy—though, according to Edward, I’d slept halfthe day—when a rough voice startled me. Edward sat up, keeping me cradledagainst him, and answered Gustavo in flowing Portuguese. Gustavo nodded andwalked quietly toward the front door.
    • 88“They’re finished,” Edward told me.“So that would mean that we’re alone now?”“How about lunch first?” he suggested.I bit my lip, torn by the dilemma. I was pretty hungry.With a smile, he took my hand and led me to the kitchen. He knew my face sowell, it didn’t matter that he couldn’t read my mind.“This is getting out of hand,” I complained when I finally felt full.“Do you want to swim with the dolphins this afternoon—burn off the calories?”he asked.“Maybe later. I had another idea for burning calories.”“And what was that?”“Well, there’s an awful lot of headboard left—”But I didn’t finish. He’d already swept me up into his arms, and his lips silencedmine as he carried me with inhuman speed to the blue room.
    • 89 7. UNEXPECTEDThe line of black advanced on me through the shroud-like mist. I could see theirdark ruby eyes glinting with desire, lusting for the kill. Their lips pulled back overtheir sharp, wet teeth—some to snarl, some to smile.I heard the child behind me whimper, but I couldn’t turn to look at him. Though Iwas desperate to be sure that he was safe, I could not afford any lapse in focusnow.They ghosted closer, their black robes billowing slightly with the movement. Isaw their hands curl into bone-colored claws. They started to drift apart, anglingto come at us from all sides. We were surrounded. We were going to die.And then, like a burst of light from a flash, the whole scene was different. Yetnothing changed—the Volturi still stalked toward us, poised to kill. All that reallychanged was how the picture looked to me. Suddenly, I was hungry for it. Iwanted them to charge. The panic changed to bloodlust as I crouched forward, asmile on my face, and a growl ripped through my bared teeth.I jolted upright, shocked out of the dream.The room was black. It was also steamy hot. Sweat matted my hair at the templesand rolled down my throat.I groped the warm sheets and found them empty.“Edward?”Just then, my fingers encountered something smooth and flat and stiff. One sheetof paper, folded in half. I took the note with me and felt my way across the roomto the light switch.The outside of the note was addressed to Mrs. Cullen. I’m hoping you won’t wake and notice my absence, but, if you should, I’ll be back very soon. I’ve just gone to the mainland to hunt. Go back to sleep and I’ll be here when you wake again. I love you.I sighed. We’d been here about two weeks now, so I should have been expectingthat he would have to leave, but I hadn’t been thinking about time. We seemed toexist outside of time here, just drifting along in a perfect state.I wiped the sweat off my forehead. I felt absolutely wide awake, though the clockon the dresser said it was after one. I knew I would never be able to sleep as hot
    • 90and sticky as I felt. Not to mention the fact that if I shut off the light and closedmy eyes, I was sure to see those prowling black figures in my head.I got up and wandered aimlessly through the dark house, flipping on lights. It feltso big and empty without Edward there. Different.I ended up in the kitchen and decided that maybe comfort food was what Ineeded.I poked around in the fridge until I found all the ingredients for fried chicken.The popping and sizzling of the chicken in the pan was a nice, homey sound; I feltless nervous while it filled the silence.It smelled so good that I started eating it right out of the pan, burning my tonguein the process. By the fifth or sixth bite, though, it had cooled enough for me totaste it. My chewing slowed. Was there something off about the flavor? I checkedthe meat, and it was white all the way through, but I wondered if it wascompletely done. I took another experimental bite; I chewed twice. Ugh—definitely bad. I jumped up to spit it into the sink. Suddenly, the chicken-and-oilsmell was revolting. I took the whole plate and shook it into the garbage, thenopened the windows to chase away the scent. A coolish breeze had picked upoutside. It felt good on my skin.I was abruptly exhausted, but I didn’t want to go back to the hot room. So Iopened more windows in the TV room and lay on the couch right beneath them. Iturned on the same movie we’d watched the other day and quickly fell asleep tothe bright opening song.When I opened my eyes again, the sun was halfway up the sky, but it was not thelight that woke me. Cool arms were around me, pulling me against him. At thesame time, a sudden pain twisted in my stomach, almost like the aftershock ofcatching a punch in the gut.“I’m sorry,” Edward was murmuring as he wiped a wintry hand across myclammy forehead. “So much for thoroughness. I didn’t think about how hot youwould be with me gone. I’ll have an air conditioner installed before I leave again.”I couldn’t concentrate on what he was saying. “Excuse me!” I gasped, strugglingto get free of his arms.He dropped his hold automatically. “Bella?”I streaked for the bathroom with my hand clamped over my mouth. I felt sohorrible that I didn’t even care—at first—that he was with me while I crouchedover the toilet and was violently sick.“Bella? What’s wrong?”
    • 91I couldn’t answer yet. He held me anxiously, keeping my hair out of my face,waiting till I could breathe again.“Damn rancid chicken,” I moaned.“Are you all right?” His voice was strained.“Fine,” I panted. “It’s just food poisoning. You don’t need to see this. Go away.”“Not likely, Bella.”“Go away,” I moaned again, struggling to get up so I could rinse my mouth out.He helped me gently, ignoring the weak shoves I aimed at him.After my mouth was clean, he carried me to the bed and sat me down carefully,supporting me with his arms.“Food poisoning?”“Yeah,” I croaked. “I made some chicken last night. It tasted off, so I threw it out.But I ate a few bites first.”He put a cold hand on my forehead. It felt nice. “How do you feel now?”I thought about that for a moment. The nausea had passed as suddenly as it hadcome, and I felt like I did any other morning. “Pretty normal. A little hungry,actually.”He made me wait an hour and keep down a big glass of water before he fried mesome eggs. I felt perfectly normal, just a little tired from being up in the middle ofthe night. He put on CNN—we’d been so out of touch, world war three could havebroken out and we wouldn’t have known—and I lounged drowsily across his lap.I got bored with the news and twisted around to kiss him. Just like this morning,a sharp pain hit my stomach when I moved. I lurched away from him, my handtight over my mouth. I knew I’d never make it to the bathroom this time, so I ranto the kitchen sink.He held my hair again.“Maybe we should go back to Rio, see a doctor,” he suggested anxiously when Iwas rinsing my mouth afterward.I shook my head and edged toward the hallway. Doctors meant needles. “I’ll befine right after I brush my teeth.”
    • 92When my mouth tasted better, I searched through my suitcase for the little first-aid kit Alice had packed for me, full of human things like bandages andpainkillers and—my object now—Pepto-Bismol. Maybe I could settle my stomachand calm Edward down.But before I found the Pepto, I happened across something else that Alice hadpacked for me. I picked up the small blue box and stared at it in my hand for along moment, forgetting everything else.Then I started counting in my head. Once. Twice. Again.The knock startled me; the little box fell back into the suitcase.“Are you well?” Edward asked through the door. “Did you get sick again?”“Yes and no,” I said, but my voice sounded strangled.“Bella? Can I please come in?” Worriedly now.“O… kay?”He came in and appraised my position, sitting cross-legged on the floor by thesuitcase, and my expression, blank and staring. He sat next to me, his hand goingto my forehead at once.“What’s wrong?”“How many days has it been since the wedding?” I whispered.“Seventeen,” he answered automatically. “Bella, what is it?”I was counting again. I held up a finger, cautioning him to wait, and mouthed thenumbers to myself. I’d been wrong about the days before. We’d been here longerthan I’d thought. I started over again.“Bella!” he whispered urgently. “I’m losing my mind over here.”I tried to swallow. It didn’t work. So I reached into the suitcase and fumbledaround until I found the little blue box of tampons again. I held them up silently.He stared at me in confusion. “What? Are you trying to pass this illness off asPMS?”“No,” I managed to choke out. “No, Edward. I’m trying to tell you that my periodis five days late.”His facial expression didn’t change. It was like I hadn’t spoken.
    • 93“I don’t think I have food poisoning,” I added.He didn’t respond. He had turned into a sculpture.“The dreams,” I mumbled to myself in a flat voice. “Sleeping so much. The crying.All that food. Oh. Oh. Oh.”Edward’s stare seemed glassy, as if he couldn’t see me anymore.Reflexively, almost involuntarily, my hand dropped to my stomach.“Oh!” I squeaked again.I lurched to my feet, slipping out of Edward’s unmoving hands. I’d never changedout of the little silk shorts and camisole I’d worn to bed. I yanked the blue fabricout of the way and stared at my stomach.“Impossible,” I whispered.I had absolutely no experience with pregnancy or babies or any part of that world,but I wasn’t an idiot. I’d seen enough movies and TV shows to know that thiswasn’t how it worked. I was only five days late. If I was pregnant, my bodywouldn’t even have registered that fact. I would not have morning sickness. Iwould not have changed my eating or sleeping habits.And I most definitely would not have a small but defined bump sticking outbetween my hips.I twisted my torso back and forth, examining it from every angle, as if it woulddisappear in exactly the right light. I ran my fingers over the subtle bulge,surprised by how rock hard it felt under my skin.“Impossible,” I said again, because, bulge or no bulge, period or no period (andthere was definitely no period, though I’d never been late a day in my life), therewas no way I could be pregnant. The only person I’d ever had sex with was avampire, for crying out loud.A vampire who was still frozen on the floor with no sign of ever moving again.So there had to be some other explanation, then. Something wrong with me. Astrange South American disease with all the signs of pregnancy, onlyaccelerated…And then I remembered something—a morning of internet research that seemeda lifetime ago now. Sitting at the old desk in my room at Charlie’s house with graylight glowing dully through the window, staring at my ancient, wheezingcomputer, reading avidly through a web-site called “Vampires A–Z.” It had been
    • 94less than twenty-four hours since Jacob Black, trying to entertain me with theQuileute legends he didn’t believe in yet, had told me that Edward was a vampire.I’d scanned anxiously through the first entries on the site, which was dedicated tovampire myths around the world. The Filipino Danag, the Hebrew Estrie, theRomanian Varacolaci, the Italian Stregoni benefici (a legend actually based onmy new father-in-law’s early exploits with the Volturi, not that I’d knownanything about that at the time)… I’d paid less and less attention as the storieshad grown more and more implausible. I only remembered vague bits of the laterentries. They mostly seemed like excuses dreamed up to explain things like infantmortality rates—and infidelity. No, honey, I’m not having an affair! That sexywoman you saw sneaking out of the house was an evil succubus. I’m lucky Iescaped with my life! (Of course, with what I knew now about Tanya and hersisters, I suspected that some of those excuses had been nothing but fact.) Therehad been one for the ladies, too. How can you accuse me of cheating on you—just because you’ve come home from a two-year sea voyage and I’m pregnant?It was the incubus. He hypnotized me with his mystical vampire powers.…That had been part of the definition of the incubus—the ability to father childrenwith his hapless prey.I shook my head, dazed. But…I thought of Esme and especially Rosalie. Vampires couldn’t have children. If itwere possible, Rosalie would have found a way by now. The incubus myth wasnothing but a fable.Except that… well, there was a difference. Of course Rosalie could not conceive achild, because she was frozen in the state in which she passed from human toinhuman. Totally unchanging. And human women’s bodies had to change to bearchildren. The constant change of a monthly cycle for one thing, and then thebigger changes needed to accommodate a growing child. Rosalie’s body couldn’tchange.But mine could. Mine did. I touched the bump on my stomach that had not beenthere yesterday.And human men—well, they pretty much stayed the same from puberty to death.I remembered a random bit of trivia, gleaned from who knows where: CharlieChaplin was in his seventies when he fathered his youngest child. Men had nosuch thing as child-bearing years or cycles of fertility.Of course, how would anyone know if vampire men could father children, whentheir partners were not able? What vampire on earth would have the restraintnecessary to test the theory with a human woman? Or the inclination?I could think of only one.
    • 95Part of my head was sorting through fact and memory and speculation, while theother half—the part that controlled the ability to move even the smallestmuscles—was stunned beyond the capacity for normal operations. I couldn’tmove my lips to speak, though I wanted to ask Edward to please explain to mewhat was going on. I needed to go back to where he sat, to touch him, but mybody wouldn’t follow instructions. I could only stare at my shocked eyes in themirror, my fingers gingerly pressed against the swelling on my torso.And then, like in my vivid nightmare last night, the scene abruptly transformed.Everything I saw in the mirror looked completely different, though nothingactually was different.What happened to change everything was that a soft little nudge bumped myhand—from inside my body.In the same moment, Edward’s phone rang, shrill and demanding. Neither of usmoved. It rang again and again. I tried to tune it out while I pressed my fingers tomy stomach, waiting. In the mirror my expression was no longer bewildered—itwas wondering now. I barely noticed when the strange, silent tears startedstreaming down my cheeks.The phone kept ringing. I wished Edward would answer it—I was having amoment. Possibly the biggest of my life.Ring! Ring! Ring!Finally, the annoyance broke through everything else. I got down on my kneesnext to Edward—I found myself moving more carefully, a thousand times moreaware of the way each motion felt—and patted his pockets until I found thephone. I half-expected him to thaw out and answer it himself, but he wasperfectly still.I recognized the number, and I could easily guess why she was calling.“Hi, Alice,” I said. My voice wasn’t much better than before. I cleared my throat.“Bella? Bella, are you okay?”“Yeah. Um. Is Carlisle there?”“He is. What’s the problem?”“I’m not… one hundred percent… sure. . . .”“Is Edward all right?” she asked warily. She called Carlisle’s name away from thephone and then demanded, “Why didn’t he pick up the phone?” before I couldanswer her first question.
    • 96“I’m not sure.”“Bella, what’s going on? I just saw—”“What did you see?”There was a silence. “Here’s Carlisle,” she finally said.It felt like ice water had been injected in my veins. If Alice had seen a vision of mewith a green-eyed, angel-faced child in my arms, she would have answered me,wouldn’t she?While I waited through the split second it took for Carlisle to speak, the vision I’dimagined for Alice danced behind my lids. A tiny, beautiful little baby, even morebeautiful than the boy in my dream—a tiny Edward in my arms. Warmth shotthrough my veins, chasing the ice away.“Bella, it’s Carlisle. What’s going on?”“I—” I wasn’t sure how to answer. Would he laugh at my conclusions, tell me Iwas crazy? Was I just having another colorful dream? “I’m a little worried aboutEdward.… Can vampires go into shock?”“Has he been harmed?” Carlisle’s voice was suddenly urgent.“No, no,” I assured him. “Just… taken by surprise.”“I don’t understand, Bella.”“I think… well, I think that… maybe… I might be . . .” I took a deep breath.“Pregnant.”As if to back me up, there was another tiny nudge in my abdomen. My hand flewto my stomach.After a long pause, Carlisle’s medical training kicked in.“When was the first day of your last menstrual cycle?”“Sixteen days before the wedding.” I’d done the mental math thoroughly enoughjust before to be able to answer with certainty.“How do you feel?”“Weird,” I told him, and my voice broke. Another trickle of tears dribbled downmy cheeks. “This is going to sound crazy—look, I know it’s way too early for anyof this. Maybe I am crazy. But I’m having bizarre dreams and eating all the time
    • 97and crying and throwing up and… and… I swear something moved inside me justnow.”Edward’s head snapped up.I sighed in relief.Edward held his hand out for the phone, his face white and hard.“Um, I think Edward wants to talk to you.”“Put him on,” Carlisle said in a strained voice.Not entirely sure that Edward could talk, I put the phone in his outstretchedhand.He pressed it to his ear. “Is it possible?” he whispered.He listened for a long time, staring blankly at nothing.“And Bella?” he asked. His arm wrapped around me as he spoke, pulling me closeinto his side.He listened for what seemed like a long time and then said, “Yes. Yes, I will.”He pulled the phone away from his ear and pressed the “end” button. Right away,he dialed a new number.“What did Carlisle say?” I asked impatiently.Edward answered in a lifeless voice. “He thinks you’re pregnant.”The words sent a warm shiver down my spine. The little nudger fluttered insideme.“Who are you calling now?” I asked as he put the phone back to his ear.“The airport. We’re going home.”Edward was on the phone for more than an hour without a break. I guessed thathe was arranging our flight home, but I couldn’t be sure because he wasn’tspeaking English. It sounded like he was arguing; he spoke through his teeth alot.While he argued, he packed. He whirled around the room like an angry tornado,leaving order rather than destruction in his path. He threw a set of my clothes onthe bed without looking at them, so I assumed it was time for me to get dressed.
    • 98He continued with his argument while I changed, gesturing with sudden, agitatedmovements.When I could no longer bear the violent energy radiating out of him, I quietly leftthe room. His manic concentration made me sick to my stomach—not like themorning sickness, just uncomfortable. I would wait somewhere else for his moodto pass. I couldn’t talk to this icy, focused Edward who honestly frightened me alittle.Once again, I ended up in the kitchen. There was a bag of pretzels in thecupboard. I started chewing on them absently, staring out the window at the sandand rocks and trees and ocean, everything glittering in the sun.Someone nudged me.“I know,” I said. “I don’t want to go, either.”I stared out the window for a moment, but the nudger didn’t respond.“I don’t understand,” I whispered. “What is wrong here?”Surprising, absolutely. Astonishing, even. But wrong?No.So why was Edward so furious? He was the one who had actually wished out loudfor a shotgun wedding.I tried to reason through it.Maybe it wasn’t so confusing that Edward wanted us to go home right away. He’dwant Carlisle to check me out, make sure my assumption was right—though therewas absolutely no doubt in my head at this point. Probably they’d want to figureout why I was already so pregnant, with the bump and the nudging and all ofthat. That wasn’t normal.Once I thought of this, I was sure I had it. He must be so worried about the baby.I hadn’t gotten around to freaking out yet. My brain worked slower than his—itwas still stuck marveling over the picture it had conjured up before: the tiny childwith Edward’s eyes—green, as his had been when he was human—lying fair andbeautiful in my arms. I hoped he would have Edward’s face exactly, with nointerference from mine.It was funny how abruptly and entirely necessary this vision had become. Fromthat first little touch, the whole world had shifted. Where before there was justone thing I could not live without, now there were two. There was no division—my love was not split between them now; it wasn’t like that. It was more like my
    • 99heart had grown, swollen up to twice its size in that moment. All that extra space,already filled. The increase was almost dizzying.I’d never really understood Rosalie’s pain and resentment before. I’d neverimagined myself a mother, never wanted that. It had been a piece of cake topromise Edward that I didn’t care about giving up children for him, because Itruly didn’t. Children, in the abstract, had never appealed to me. They seemed tobe loud creatures, often dripping some form of goo. I’d never had much to dowith them. When I’d dreamed of Renée providing me with a brother, I’d alwaysimagined an older brother. Someone to take care of me, rather than the other wayaround.This child, Edward’s child, was a whole different story.I wanted him like I wanted air to breathe. Not a choice—a necessity.Maybe I just had a really bad imagination. Maybe that was why I’d been unable toimagine that I would like being married until after I already was—unable to seethat I would want a baby until after one was already coming.…As I put my hand on my stomach, waiting for the next nudge, tears streakeddown my cheeks again.“Bella?”I turned, made wary by the tone of his voice. It was too cold, too careful. His facematched his voice, empty and hard.And then he saw that I was crying.“Bella!” He crossed the room in a flash and put his hands on my face. “Are you inpain?”“No, no—”He pulled me against his chest. “Don’t be afraid. We’ll be home in sixteen hours.You’ll be fine. Carlisle will be ready when we get there. We’ll take care of this, andyou’ll be fine, you’ll be fine.”“Take care of this? What do you mean?”He leaned away and looked me in the eye. “We’re going to get that thing outbefore it can hurt any part of you. Don’t be scared. I won’t let it hurt you.”“That thing?” I gasped.
    • 100He looked sharply away from me, toward the front door. “Dammit! I forgotGustavo was due today. I’ll get rid of him and be right back.” He darted out of theroom.I clutched the counter for support. My knees were wobbly.Edward had just called my little nudger a thing. He said Carlisle would get it out.“No,” I whispered.I’d gotten it wrong before. He didn’t care about the baby at all. He wanted to hurthim. The beautiful picture in my head shifted abruptly, changed into somethingdark. My pretty baby crying, my weak arms not enough to protect him.…What could I do? Would I be able to reason with them? What if I couldn’t? Didthis explain Alice’s strange silence on the phone? Is that what she’d seen? Edwardand Carlisle killing that pale, perfect child before he could live?“No,” I whispered again, my voice stronger. That could not be. I would not allowit.I heard Edward speaking Portuguese again. Arguing again. His voice got closer,and I heard him grunt in exasperation. Then I heard another voice, low andtimid. A woman’s voice.He came into the kitchen ahead of her and went straight to me. He wiped thetears from my cheeks and murmured in my ear through the thin, hard line of hislips.“She’s insisting on leaving the food she brought—she made us dinner.” If he hadbeen less tense, less furious, I knew he would have rolled his eyes. “It’s anexcuse—she wants to make sure I haven’t killed you yet.” His voice went ice coldat the end.Kaure edged nervously around the corner with a covered dish in her hands. Iwished I could speak Portuguese, or that my Spanish was less rudimentary, sothat I could try to thank this woman who had dared to anger a vampire just tocheck on me.Her eyes flickered between the two of us. I saw her measuring the color in myface, the moisture in my eyes. Mumbling something I didn’t understand, she putthe dish on the counter.Edward snapped something at her; I’d never heard him be so impolite before. Sheturned to go, and the whirling motion of her long skirt wafted the smell of thefood into my face. It was strong—onions and fish. I gagged and whirled for thesink. I felt Edward’s hands on my forehead and heard his soothing murmur
    • 101through the roaring in my ears. His hands disappeared for a second, and I heardthe refrigerator slam shut. Mercifully, the smell disappeared with the sound, andEdward’s hands were cooling my clammy face again. It was over quickly.I rinsed my mouth in the tap while he caressed the side of my face.There was a tentative little nudge in my womb.It’s okay. We’re okay, I thought toward the bump.Edward turned me around, pulling me into his arms. I rested my head on hisshoulder. My hands, instinctively, folded over my stomach.I heard a little gasp and I looked up.The woman was still there, hesitating in the doorway with her hands half-outstretched as if she had been looking for some way to help. Her eyes werelocked on my hands, popping wide with shock. Her mouth hung open.Then Edward gasped, too, and he suddenly turned to face the woman, pushingme slightly behind his body. His arm wrapped across my torso, like he washolding me back.Suddenly, Kaure was shouting at him—loudly, furiously, her unintelligible wordsflying across the room like knives. She raised her tiny fist in the air and took twosteps forward, shaking it at him. Despite her ferocity, it was easy to see the terrorin her eyes.Edward stepped toward her, too, and I clutched at his arm, frightened for thewoman. But when he interrupted her tirade, his voice took me by surprise,especially considering how sharp he’d been with her when she wasn’t screechingat him. It was low now; it was pleading. Not only that, but the sound wasdifferent, more guttural, the cadence off. I didn’t think he was speakingPortuguese anymore.For a moment, the woman stared at him in wonder, and then her eyes narrowedas she barked out a long question in the same alien tongue.I watched as his face grew sad and serious, and he nodded once. She took a quickstep back and crossed herself.He reached out to her, gesturing toward me and then resting his hand against mycheek. She replied angrily again, waving her hands accusingly toward him, andthen gestured to him. When she finished, he pleaded again with the same low,urgent voice.
    • 102Her expression changed—she stared at him with doubt plain on her face as hespoke, her eyes repeatedly flashing to my confused face. He stopped speaking,and she seemed to be deliberating something. She looked back and forth betweenthe two of us, and then, unconsciously it seemed, took a step forward.She made a motion with her hands, miming a shape like a balloon jutting outfrom her stomach. I started—did her legends of the predatory blood-drinkerinclude this? Could she possibly know something about what was growing insideme?She walked a few steps forward deliberately this time and asked a few briefquestions, which he responded to tensely. Then he became the questioner—onequick query. She hesitated and then slowly shook her head. When he spoke again,his voice was so agonized that I looked up at him in shock. His face was drawnwith pain.In answer, she walked slowly forward until she was close enough to lay her smallhand on top of mine, over my stomach. She spoke one word in Portuguese.“Morte,” she sighed quietly. Then she turned, her shoulders bent as if theconversation had aged her, and left the room.I knew enough Spanish for that one.Edward was frozen again, staring after her with the tortured expression fixed onhis face. A few moments later, I heard a boat’s engine putter to life and then fadeinto the distance.Edward did not move until I started for the bathroom. Then his hand caught myshoulder.“Where are you going?” His voice was a whisper of pain.“To brush my teeth again.”“Don’t worry about what she said. It’s nothing but legends, old lies for the sake ofentertainment.”“I didn’t understand anything,” I told him, though it wasn’t entirely true. As if Icould discount something because it was a legend. My life was circled by legendon every side. They were all true.“I packed your toothbrush. I’ll get it for you.”He walked ahead of me to the bedroom.“Are we leaving soon?” I called after him.
    • 103“As soon as you’re done.”He waited for my toothbrush to repack it, pacing silently around the bedroom. Ihanded it to him when I was finished.“I’ll get the bags into the boat.”“Edward—”He turned back. “Yes?”I hesitated, trying to think of some way to get a few seconds alone. “Could you…pack some of the food? You know, in case I get hungry again.”“Of course,” he said, his eyes suddenly soft. “Don’t worry about anything. We’llget to Carlisle in just a few hours, really. This will all be over soon.”I nodded, not trusting my voice.He turned and left the room, one big suitcase in each hand.I whirled and scooped up the phone he’d left on the counter. It was very unlikehim to forget things—to forget that Gustavo was coming, to leave his phone lyinghere. He was so stressed he was barely himself.I flipped it open and scrolled through the preprogrammed numbers. I was glad hehad the sound turned off, afraid that he would catch me. Would he be at the boatnow? Or back already? Would he hear me from the kitchen if I whispered?I found the number I wanted, one I had never called before in my life. I pressedthe “send” button and crossed my fingers.“Hello?” the voice like golden wind chimes answered.“Rosalie?” I whispered. “It’s Bella. Please. You have to help me.”
    • 104 BOOK TWO Jacob CONTENTS Preface 8. Waiting For The Damn Fight To Start Already 9. Sure As Hell Didn’t See That One Coming 10. Why Didn’t I Just Walk Away? Oh Right, Because I’m An Idiot. 11. The Two Things At The Very Top Of My Things-I-Never-Want-To-Do List 12. Some People Just Don’t Grasp The Concept Of “Unwelcome” 13. Good Thing I’ve Got A Strong Stomach14. You Know Things Are Bad When You Feel Guilty For Being Rude To Vampires 15. Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock 16. Too-Much-Information Alert 17. What Do I Look Like? The Wizard Of Oz? You Need A Brain? You Need A Heart? Go Ahead. Take Mine. Take Everything I Have. 18. There Are No Words For This.
    • 105And yet, to say the truth,reason and love keep little company together nowadays. William Shakespeare A Midsummer Night’s Dream Act III, Scene i
    • 106 PREFACE Life sucks, and then you die.Yeah, I should be so lucky.
    • 107 8. WAITING FOR THE DAMN FIGHT TO START ALREADY“Jeez, Paul, don’t you freaking have a home of your own?”Paul, lounging across my whole couch, watching some stupid baseball game onmy crappy TV, just grinned at me and then—real slow—he lifted one Dorito fromthe bag in his lap and wedged it into his mouth in one piece.“You better’ve brought those with you.”Crunch. “Nope,” he said while chewing. “Your sister said to go ahead and helpmyself to anything I wanted.”I tried to make my voice sound like I wasn’t about to punch him. “Is Rachel herenow?”It didn’t work. He heard where I was going and shoved the bag behind his back.The bag crackled as he smashed it into the cushion. The chips crunched intopieces. Paul’s hands came up in fists, close to his face like a boxer.“Bring it, kid. I don’t need Rachel to protect me.”I snorted. “Right. Like you wouldn’t go crying to her first chance.”He laughed and relaxed into the sofa, dropping his hands. “I’m not going to gotattle to a girl. If you got in a lucky hit, that would be just between the two of us.And vice versa, right?”Nice of him to give me an invitation. I made my body slump like I’d given up.“Right.”His eyes shifted to the TV.I lunged.His nose made a very satisfying crunching sound of its own when my fistconnected. He tried to grab me, but I danced out of the way before he could find ahold, the ruined bag of Doritos in my left hand.“You broke my nose, idiot.”“Just between us, right, Paul?”I went to put the chips away. When I turned around, Paul was repositioning hisnose before it could set crooked. The blood had already stopped; it looked like it
    • 108had no source as it trickled down his lips and off his chin. He cussed, wincing ashe pulled at the cartilage.“You are such a pain, Jacob. I swear, I’d rather hang out with Leah.”“Ouch. Wow, I bet Leah’s really going to love to hear that you want to spend somequality time with her. It’ll just warm the cockles of her heart.”“You’re going to forget I said that.”“Of course. I’m sure it won’t slip out.”“Ugh,” he grunted, and then settled back into the couch, wiping the leftover bloodon the collar of his t-shirt. “You’re fast, kid. I’ll give you that.” He turned hisattention back to the fuzzy game.I stood there for a second, and then I stalked off to my room, muttering aboutalien abductions.Back in the day, you could count on Paul for a fight pretty much whenever. Youdidn’t have to hit him then—any mild insult would do. It didn’t take a lot to fliphim out of control. Now, of course, when I really wanted a good snarling, ripping,break-the-trees-down match, he had to be all mellow.Wasn’t it bad enough that yet another member of the pack had imprinted—because, really, that made four of ten now! When would it stop? Stupid myth wassupposed to be rare, for crying out loud! All this mandatory love-at-first-sightwas completely sickening!Did it have to be my sister? Did it have to be Paul?When Rachel’d come home from Washington State at the end of the summersemester—graduated early, the nerd—my biggest worry’d been that it would behard keeping the secret around her. I wasn’t used to covering things up in myown home. It made me real sympathetic to kids like Embry and Collin, whoseparents didn’t know they were werewolves. Embry’s mom thought he was goingthrough some kind of rebellious stage. He was permanently grounded forconstantly sneaking out, but, of course, there wasn’t much he could do about that.She’d check his room every night, and every night it would be empty again. She’dyell and he’d take it in silence, and then go through it all again the next day. We’dtried to talk Sam into giving Embry a break and letting his mom in on the gig, butEmbry’d said he didn’t mind. The secret was too important.So I’d been all geared up to be keeping that secret. And then, two days afterRachel got home, Paul ran into her on the beach. Bada bing, bada boom—truelove! No secrets necessary when you found your other half, and all thatimprinting werewolf garbage.
    • 109Rachel got the whole story. And I got Paul as a brother-in-law someday. I knewBilly wasn’t much thrilled about it, either. But he handled it better than I did.’Course, he did escape to the Clearwaters’ more often than usual these days. Ididn’t see where that was so much better. No Paul, but plenty of Leah.I wondered—would a bullet through my temple actually kill me or just leave areally big mess for me to clean up?I threw myself down on the bed. I was tired—hadn’t slept since my last patrol—but I knew I wasn’t going to sleep. My head was too crazy. The thoughts bouncedaround inside my skull like a disoriented swarm of bees. Noisy. Now and thenthey stung. Must be hornets, not bees. Bees died after one sting. And the samethoughts were stinging me again and again.This waiting was driving me insane. It had been almost four weeks. I’d expected,one way or another, the news would have come by now. I’d sat up nightsimagining what form it would take.Charlie sobbing on the phone—Bella and her husband lost in an accident. A planecrash? That would be hard to fake. Unless the leeches didn’t mind killing a bunchof bystanders to authenticate it, and why would they? Maybe a small planeinstead. They probably had one of those to spare.Or would the murderer come home alone, unsuccessful in his attempt to makeher one of them? Or not even getting that far. Maybe he’d smashed her like a bagof chips in his drive to get some? Because her life was less important to him thanhis own pleasure…The story would be so tragic—Bella lost in a horrible accident. Victim of amugging gone wrong. Choking to death at dinner. A car accident, like my mom.So common. Happened all the time.Would he bring her home? Bury her here for Charlie? Closed-casket ceremony, ofcourse. My mom’s coffin had been nailed shut.…I could only hope that he’d come back here, within my reach.Maybe there would be no story at all. Maybe Charlie would call to ask my dad ifhe’d heard anything from Dr. Cullen, who just didn’t show up to work one day.The house abandoned. No answer on any of the Cullens’ phones. The mysterypicked up by some second-rate news program, foul play suspected…Maybe the big white house would burn to the ground, everyone trapped inside. Ofcourse, they’d need bodies for that one. Eight humans of roughly the right size.Burned beyond recognition—beyond the help of dental records.
    • 110Either of those would be tricky—for me, that is. It would be hard to find them ifthey didn’t want to be found. Of course, I had forever to look. If you had forever,you could check out every single piece of straw in the haystack, one by one, to seeif it was the needle.Right now, I wouldn’t mind dismantling a haystack. At least that would besomething to do. I hated knowing that I could be losing my chance. Giving thebloodsuckers the time to escape, if that was their plan.We could go tonight. We could kill every one of them that we could find.I liked that plan because I knew Edward well enough to know that, if I killed anyone of his coven, I would get my chance at him, too. He’d come for revenge. AndI’d give it to him—I wouldn’t let my brothers take him down as a pack. It wouldbe just him and me. May the better man win.But Sam wouldn’t hear of it. We’re not going to break the treaty. Let them makethe breach. Just because we had no proof that the Cullens had done anythingwrong. Yet. You had to add the yet, because we all knew it was inevitable. Bellawas either coming back one of them, or not coming back. Either way, a humanlife had been lost. And that meant game on.In the other room, Paul brayed like a mule. Maybe he’d switched to a comedy.Maybe the commercial was funny. Whatever. It grated on my nerves.I thought about breaking his nose again. But it wasn’t Paul I wanted to fight with.Not really.I tried to listen to other sounds, the wind in the trees. It wasn’t the same, notthrough human ears. There were a million voices in the wind that I couldn’t hearin this body.But these ears were sensitive enough. I could hear past the trees, to the road, thesounds of the cars coming around that last bend where you could finally see thebeach—the vista of the islands and the rocks and the big blue ocean stretching tothe horizon. The La Push cops liked to hang out right around there. Touristsnever noticed the reduced speed limit sign on the other side of the road.I could hear the voices outside the souvenir shop on the beach. I could hear thecowbell clanging as the door opened and closed. I could hear Embry’s mom at thecash register, printing out a receipt.I could hear the tide raking across the beach rocks. I could hear the kids squeal asthe icy water rushed in too fast for them to get out of the way. I could hear themoms complain about the wet clothes. And I could hear a familiar voice.…
    • 111I was listening so hard that the sudden burst of Paul’s donkey laugh made mejump half off the bed.“Get out of my house,” I grumbled. Knowing he wouldn’t pay any attention, Ifollowed my own advice. I wrenched open my window and climbed out the backway so that I wouldn’t see Paul again. It would be too tempting. I knew I wouldhit him again, and Rachel was going to be pissed enough already. She’d see theblood on his shirt, and she’d blame me right away without waiting for proof. Ofcourse, she’d be right, but still.I paced down to the shore, my fists in my pockets. Nobody looked at me twicewhen I went through the dirt lot by First Beach. That was one nice thing aboutsummer—no one cared if you wore nothing but shorts.I followed the familiar voice I’d heard and found Quil easy enough. He was on thesouth end of the crescent, avoiding the bigger part of the tourist crowd. He keptup a constant stream of warnings.“Keep out of the water, Claire. C’mon. No, don’t. Oh! Nice, kid. Seriously, do youwant Emily to yell at me? I’m not bringing you back to the beach again if youdon’t—Oh yeah? Don’t—ugh. You think that’s funny, do you? Hah! Who’slaughing now, huh?”He had the giggling toddler by the ankle when I reached them. She had a bucketin one hand, and her jeans were drenched. He had a huge wet mark down thefront of his t-shirt.“Five bucks on the baby girl,” I said.“Hey, Jake.”Claire squealed and threw her bucket at Quil’s knees. “Down, down!”He set her carefully on her feet and she ran to me. She wrapped her arms aroundmy leg.“Unca Jay!”“How’s it going, Claire?”She giggled. “Qwil aaaaawl wet now.”“I can see that. Where’s your mama?”“Gone, gone, gone,” Claire sang, “Cwaire pway wid Qwil aaaawl day. Cwairenebber gowin home.” She let go of me and ran to Quil. He scooped her up andslung her onto his shoulders.
    • 112“Sounds like somebody’s hit the terrible twos.”“Threes actually,” Quil corrected. “You missed the party. Princess theme. Shemade me wear a crown, and then Emily suggested they all try out her new playmakeup on me.”“Wow, I’m really sorry I wasn’t around to see that.”“Don’t worry, Emily has pictures. Actually, I look pretty hot.”“You’re such a patsy.”Quil shrugged. “Claire had a great time. That was the point.”I rolled my eyes. It was hard being around imprinted people. No matter whatstage they were in—about to tie the knot like Sam or just a much-abused nannylike Quil—the peace and certainty they always radiated was downright puke-inducing.Claire squealed on his shoulders and pointed at the ground. “Pity wock, Qwil! Forme, for me!”“Which one, kiddo? The red one?”“No wed!”Quil dropped to his knees—Claire screamed and pulled his hair like a horse’sreigns.“This blue one?”“No, no, no…,” the little girl sang, thrilled with her new game.The weird part was, Quil was having just as much fun as she was. He didn’t havethat face on that so many of the tourist dads and moms were wearing—the when-is-nap-time? face. You never saw a real parent so jazzed to play whatever stupidkiddie sport their rugrat could think up. I’d seen Quil play peekaboo for an hourstraight without getting bored.And I couldn’t even make fun of him for it—I envied him too much.Though I did think it sucked that he had a good fourteen years of monkitudeahead of him until Claire was his age—for Quil, at least, it was a good thingwerewolves didn’t get older. But even all that time didn’t seem to bother himmuch.“Quil, you ever think about dating?” I asked.
    • 113“Huh?”“No, no yewwo!” Claire crowed.“You know. A real girl. I mean, just for now, right? On your nights off babysittingduty.”Quil stared at me, his mouth hanging open.“Pity wock! Pity wock!” Claire screamed when he didn’t offer her another choice.She smacked him on the head with her little fist.“Sorry, Claire-bear. How about this pretty purple one?”“No,” she giggled. “No poopoh.”“Give me a clue. I’m begging, kid.”Claire thought it over. “Gween,” she finally said.Quil stared at the rocks, studying them. He picked four rocks in different shadesof green, and offered them to her.“Did I get it?”“Yay!”“Which one?”“Aaaaawl ob dem!!”She cupped her hands and he poured the small rocks into them. She laughed andimmediately clunked him on the head with them. He winced theatrically and thengot to his feet and started walking back up toward the parking lot. Probablyworried about her getting cold in her wet clothes. He was worse than anyparanoid, overprotective mother.“Sorry if I was being pushy before, man, about the girl thing,” I said.“Naw, that’s cool,” Quil said. “It kind of took me by surprise is all. I hadn’tthought about it.”“I bet she’d understand. You know, when she’s grown up. She wouldn’t get madthat you had a life while she was in diapers.”“No, I know. I’m sure she’d understand that.”
    • 114He didn’t say anything else.“But you won’t do that, will you?” I guessed.“I can’t see it,” he said in a low voice. “I can’t imagine. I just don’t… see anyonethat way. I don’t notice girls anymore, you know. I don’t see their faces.”“Put that together with the tiara and makeup, and maybe Claire will have adifferent kind of competition to worry about.”Quil laughed and made kissing noises at me. “You available this Friday, Jacob?”“You wish,” I said, and then I made a face. “Yeah, guess I am, though.”He hesitated a second and then said, “You ever think about dating?”I sighed. Guess I’d opened myself up for that one.“You know, Jake, maybe you should think about getting a life.”He didn’t say it like a joke. His voice was sympathetic. That made it worse.“I don’t see them, either, Quil. I don’t see their faces.”Quil sighed, too.Far away, too low for anyone but just us two to hear it over the waves, a howl roseout of the forest.“Dang, that’s Sam,” Quil said. His hands flew up to touch Claire, as if making sureshe was still there. “I don’t know where her mom’s at!”“I’ll see what it is. If we need you, I’ll let you know.” I raced through the words.They came out all slurred together. “Hey, why don’t you take her up to theClearwaters’? Sue and Billy can keep an eye on her if they need to. They mightknow what’s going on, anyway.”“Okay—get outta here, Jake!”I took off running, not for the dirt path through the weedy hedge, but in theshortest line toward the forest. I hurdled the first line of driftwood and thenripped my way through the briars, still running. I felt the little tears as the thornscut into my skin, but I ignored them. Their sting would be healed before I madethe trees.I cut behind the store and darted across the highway. Somebody honked at me.Once in the safety of the trees, I ran faster, taking longer strides. People would
    • 115stare if I was out in the open. Normal people couldn’t run like this. Sometimes Ithought it might be fun to enter a race—you know, like the Olympic trials orsomething. It would be cool to watch the expressions on those star athletes’ faceswhen I blew by them. Only I was pretty sure the testing they did to make sure youweren’t on steroids would probably turn up some really freaky crap in my blood.As soon as I was in the true forest, unbound by roads or houses, I skidded to astop and kicked my shorts off. With quick, practiced moves, I rolled them up andtied them to the leather cord around my ankle. As I was still pulling the endstight, I started shifting. The fire trembled down my spine, throwing tight spasmsout along my arms and legs. It only took a second. The heat flooded through me,and I felt the silent shimmer that made me something else. I threw my heavypaws against the matted earth and stretched my back in one long, rollingextension.Phasing was very easy when I was centered like this. I didn’t have issues with mytemper anymore. Except when it got in the way.For one half second, I remembered the awful moment at that unspeakable joke ofa wedding. I’d been so insane with fury that I couldn’t make my body work right.I’d been trapped, shaking and burning, unable to make the change and kill themonster just a few feet away from me. It had been so confusing. Dying to kill him.Afraid to hurt her. My friends in the way. And then, when I was finally able totake the form I wanted, the order from my leader. The edict from the Alpha. If ithad been just Embry and Quil there that night without Sam… would I have beenable to kill the murderer, then?I hated it when Sam laid down the law like that. I hated the feeling of having nochoice. Of having to obey.And then I was conscious of an audience. I was not alone in my thoughts.So self-absorbed all the time, Leah thought.Yeah, no hypocrisy there, Leah, I thought back.Can it, guys, Sam told us.We fell silent, and I felt Leah’s wince at the word guys. Touchy, like always.Sam pretended not to notice. Where’s Quil and Jared?Quil’s got Claire. He’s taking her to the Clearwaters’.Good. Sue will take her.Jared was going to Kim’s, Embry thought. Good chance he didn’t hear you.
    • 116There was a low grumble through the pack. I moaned along with them. WhenJared finally showed up, no doubt he’d still be thinking about Kim. And nobodywanted a replay of what they were up to right now.Sam sat back on his haunches and let another howl rip into the air. It was a signaland an order in one.The pack was gathered a few miles east of where I was. I loped through the thickforest toward them. Leah, Embry, and Paul all were working in toward them, too.Leah was close—soon I could hear her footfalls not far into the woods. Wecontinued in a parallel line, choosing not to run together.Well, we’re not waiting all day for him. He’ll just have to catch up later.’Sup, boss? Paul wanted to know.We need to talk. Something’s happened.I felt Sam’s thoughts flicker to me—and not just Sam’s, but Seth’s and Collin’sand Brady’s as well. Collin and Brady—the new kids—had been running patrolwith Sam today, so they would know whatever he knew. I didn’t know why Sethwas already out here, and in the know. It wasn’t his turn.Seth, tell them what you heard.I sped up, wanting to be there. I heard Leah move faster, too. She hated beingoutrun. Being the fastest was the only edge she claimed.Claim this, moron, she hissed, and then she really kicked it into gear. I dug mynails into the loam and shot myself forward.Sam didn’t seem in the mood to put up with our usual crap. Jake, Leah, give it arest.Neither of us slowed.Sam growled, but let it go. Seth?Charlie called around till he found Billy at my house.Yeah, I talked to him, Paul added.I felt a jolt go through me as Seth thought Charlie’s name. This was it. Thewaiting was over. I ran faster, forcing myself to breathe, though my lungs feltkinda stiff all of a sudden.Which story would it be?
    • 117So he’s all flipped out. Guess Edward and Bella got home last week, and…My chest eased up.She was alive. Or she wasn’t dead dead, at least.I hadn’t realized how much difference it would make to me. I’d been thinking ofher as dead this whole time, and I only saw that now. I saw that I’d never believedthat he would bring her back alive. It shouldn’t matter, because I knew what wascoming next.Yeah, bro, and here’s the bad news. Charlie talked to her, said she sounded bad.She told him she’s sick. Carlisle got on and told Charlie that Bella picked upsome rare disease in South America. Said she’s quarantined. Charlie’s goingcrazy, ’cause even he’s not allowed to see her. He says he doesn’t care if he getssick, but Carlisle wouldn’t bend. No visitors. Told Charlie it was pretty serious,but that he’s doing everything he can. Charlie’s been stewing about it for days,but he only called Billy now. He said she sounded worse today.The mental silence when Seth finished was profound. We all understood.So she would die of this disease, as far as Charlie knew. Would they let him viewthe corpse? The pale, perfectly still, unbreathing white body? They couldn’t lethim touch the cold skin—he might notice how hard it was. They’d have to waituntil she could hold still, could keep from killing Charlie and the other mourners.How long would that take?Would they bury her? Would she dig herself out, or would the bloodsuckers comefor her?The others listened to my speculating in silence. I’d put a lot more thought intothis than any of them.Leah and I entered the clearing at nearly the same time. She was sure her noseled the way, though. She dropped onto her haunches beside her brother while Itrotted forward to stand at Sam’s right hand. Paul circled and made room for mein my place.Beatcha again, Leah thought, but I barely heard her.I wondered why I was the only one on my feet. My fur stood up on my shoulders,bristling with impatience.Well, what are we waiting for? I asked.No one said anything, but I heard their feelings of hesitation.
    • 118Oh, come on! The treaty’s broken!We have no proof—maybe she is sick.…OH, PLEASE!Okay, so the circumstantial evidence is pretty strong. Still… Jacob. Sam’sthought came slow, hesitant. Are you sure this is what you want? Is it really theright thing? We all know what she wanted.The treaty doesn’t mention anything about victim preferences, Sam!Is she really a victim? Would you label her that way?Yes!Jake, Seth thought, they aren’t our enemies.Shut up, kid! Just ’cause you’ve got some kind of sick hero worship thing goingon with that bloodsucker, it doesn’t change the law. They are our enemies. Theyare in our territory. We take them out. I don’t care if you had fun fightingalongside Edward Cullen once upon a time.So what are you going to do when Bella fights with them, Jacob? Huh? Sethdemanded.She’s not Bella anymore.You gonna be the one to take her down?I couldn’t stop myself from wincing.No, you’re not. So, what? You gonna make one of us do it? And then hold agrudge against whoever it is forever?I wouldn’t.…Sure you won’t. You’re not ready for this fight, Jacob.Instinct took over and I crouched forward, snarling at the gangly sand-coloredwolf across the circle.Jacob! Sam cautioned. Seth, shut up for a second.Seth nodded his big head.
    • 119Dang, what’d I miss? Quil thought. He was running for the gathering place full-out. Heard about Charlie’s call.…We’re getting ready to go, I told him. Why don’t you swing by Kim’s and dragJared out with your teeth? We’re going to need everyone.Come straight here, Quil, Sam ordered. We’ve decided nothing yet.I growled.Jacob, I have to think about what’s best for this pack. I have to choose the coursethat protects you all best. Times have changed since our ancestors made thattreaty. I… well, I don’t honestly believe that the Cullens are a danger to us. Andwe know that they will not be here much longer. Surely once they’ve told theirstory, they will disappear. Our lives can return to normal.Normal?If we challenge them, Jacob, they will defend themselves well.Are you afraid?Are you so ready to lose a brother? He paused. Or a sister? he tacked on as anafterthought.I’m not afraid to die.I know that, Jacob. It’s one reason I question your judgment on this.I stared into his black eyes. Do you intend to honor our fathers’ treaty or not?I honor my pack. I do what’s best for them.Coward.His muzzle tensed, pulling back over his teeth.Enough, Jacob. You’re overruled. Sam’s mental voice changed, took on thatstrange double timbre that we could not disobey. The voice of the Alpha. He metthe gaze of every wolf in the circle.The pack is not attacking the Cullens without provocation. The spirit of thetreaty remains. They are not a danger to our people, nor are they a danger tothe people of Forks. Bella Swan made an informed choice, and we are not goingto punish our former allies for her choice.Hear, hear, Seth thought enthusiastically.
    • 120I thought I told you to shut it, Seth.Oops. Sorry, Sam.Jacob, where do you think you’re going?I left the circle, moving toward the west so that I could turn my back on him. I’mgoing to tell my father goodbye. Apparently there was no purpose in mesticking around this long.Aw, Jake—don’t do that again!Shut up, Seth, several voices thought together.We don’t want you to leave, Sam told me, his thought softer than before.So force me to stay, Sam. Take away my will. Make me a slave.You know I won’t do that.Then there’s nothing more to say.I ran away from them, trying very hard not to think about what was next. Instead,I concentrated on my memories of the long wolf months, of letting the humanitybleed out of me until I was more animal than man. Living in the moment, eatingwhen hungry, sleeping when tired, drinking when thirsty, and running—runningjust to run. Simple desires, simple answers to those desires. Pain came in easilymanaged forms. The pain of hunger. The pain of cold ice under your paws. Thepain of cutting claws when dinner got feisty. Each pain had a simple answer, aclear action to end that pain.Not like being human.Yet, as soon as I was in jogging distance of my house, I shifted back into myhuman body. I needed to be able to think in privacy.I untied my shorts and yanked them on, already running for the house.I’d done it. I’d hidden what I was thinking and now it was too late for Sam to stopme. He couldn’t hear me now.Sam had made a very clear ruling. The pack would not attack the Cullens. Okay.He hadn’t mentioned an individual acting alone.Nope, the pack wasn’t attacking anyone today.
    • 121But I was.
    • 1229. SURE AS HELL DIDN’T SEE THAT ONE COMINGI didn’t really plan to say goodbye to my father.After all, one quick call to Sam and the game would be up. They’d cut me off andpush me back. Probably try to make me angry, or even hurt me—somehow forceme to phase so that Sam could lay down a new law.But Billy was expecting me, knowing I’d be in some kind of state. He was in theyard, just sitting there in his wheelchair with his eyes right on the spot where Icame through the trees. I saw him judge my direction—headed straight past thehouse to my homemade garage.“Got a minute, Jake?”I skidded to a stop. I looked at him and then toward the garage.“C’mon kid. At least help me inside.”I gritted my teeth but decided that he’d be more likely to cause trouble with Samif I didn’t lie to him for a few minutes.“Since when do you need help, old man?”He laughed his rumbling laugh. “My arms are tired. I pushed myself all the wayhere from Sue’s.”“It’s downhill. You coasted the whole way.”I rolled his chair up the little ramp I’d made for him and into the living room.“Caught me. Think I got up to about thirty miles per hour. It was great.”“You’re gonna wreck that chair, you know. And then you’ll be dragging yourselfaround by your elbows.”“Not a chance. It’ll be your job to carry me.”“You won’t be going many places.”Billy put his hands on the wheels and steered himself to the fridge. “Any foodleft?”“You got me. Paul was here all day, though, so probably not.”Billy sighed. “Have to start hiding the groceries if we’re gonna avoid starvation.”
    • 123“Tell Rachel to go stay at his place.”Billy’s joking tone vanished, and his eyes got soft. “We’ve only had her home afew weeks. First time she’s been here in a long time. It’s hard—the girls wereolder than you when your mom passed. They have more trouble being in thishouse.”“I know.”Rebecca hadn’t been home once since she got married, though she did have agood excuse. Plane tickets from Hawaii were pretty pricey. Washington State wasclose enough that Rachel didn’t have the same defense. She’d taken classesstraight through the summer semesters, working double shifts over the holidaysat some café on campus. If it hadn’t been for Paul, she probably would have takenoff again real quick. Maybe that was why Billy wouldn’t kick him out.“Well, I’m going to go work on some stuff. . . .” I started for the back door.“Wait up, Jake. Aren’t you going to tell me what happened? Do I have to call Samfor an update?”I stood with my back to him, hiding my face.“Nothing happened. Sam’s giving them a bye. Guess we’re all just a bunch ofleech lovers now.”“Jake . . .”“I don’t want to talk about it.”“Are you leaving, son?”The room was quiet for a long time while I decided how to say it.“Rachel can have her room back. I know she hates that air mattress.”“She’d rather sleep on the floor than lose you. So would I.”I snorted.“Jacob, please. If you need… a break. Well, take it. But not so long again. Comeback.”“Maybe. Maybe my gig will be weddings. Make a cameo at Sam’s, then Rachel’s.Jared and Kim might come first, though. Probably ought to have a suit orsomething.”
    • 124“Jake, look at me.”I turned around slowly. “What?”He stared into my eyes for a long minute. “Where are you going?”“I don’t really have a specific place in mind.”He cocked his head to the side, and his eyes narrowed. “Don’t you?”We stared each other down. The seconds ticked by.“Jacob,” he said. His voice was strained. “Jacob, don’t. It’s not worth it.”“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”“Leave Bella and the Cullens be. Sam is right.”I stared at him for a second, and then I crossed the room in two long strides. Igrabbed the phone and disconnected the cable from the box and the jack. Iwadded the gray cord up in the palm of my hand.“Bye, Dad.”“Jake, wait—,” he called after me, but I was out the door, running.The motorcycle wasn’t as fast as running, but it was more discreet. I wonderedhow long it would take Billy to wheel himself down to the store and then getsomeone on the phone who could get a message to Sam. I’d bet Sam was still inhis wolf form. The problem would be if Paul came back to our place anytimesoon. He could phase in a second and let Sam know what I was doing.…I wasn’t going to worry about it. I would go as fast as I could, and if they caughtme, I’d deal with that when I had to.I kicked the bike to life and then I was racing down the muddy lane. I didn’t lookbehind me as I passed the house.The highway was busy with tourist traffic; I wove in and out of the cars, earning abunch of honks and a few fingers. I took the turn onto the 101 at seventy, notbothering to look. I had to ride the line for a minute to avoid getting smeared by aminivan. Not that it would have killed me, but it would have slowed me down.Broken bones—the big ones, at least—took days to heal completely, as I had goodcause to know.
    • 125The freeway cleared up a little, and I pushed the bike to eighty. I didn’t touch thebrake until I was close to the narrow drive; I figured I was in the clear then. Samwouldn’t come this far to stop me. It was too late.It wasn’t until that moment—when I was sure that I’d made it—that I started tothink about what exactly I was going to do now. I slowed down to twenty, takingthe twists through the trees more carefully than I needed to.I knew they would hear me coming, bike or no bike, so surprise was out. Therewas no way to disguise my intentions. Edward would hear my plan as soon as Iwas close enough. Maybe he already could. But I thought this would still workout, because I had his ego on my side. He’d want to fight me alone.So I’d just walk in, see Sam’s precious evidence for myself, and then challengeEdward to a duel.I snorted. The parasite’d probably get a kick out of the theatrics of it.When I finished with him, I’d take as many of the rest of them as I could beforethey got me. Huh—I wondered if Sam would consider my death provocation.Probably say I got what I deserved. Wouldn’t want to offend his bloodsuckerBFFs.The drive opened up into the meadow, and the smell hit me like a rotten tomatoto the face. Ugh. Reeking vampires. My stomach started churning. The stenchwould be hard to take this way—undiluted by the scent of humans as it had beenthe other time I’d come here—though not as bad as smelling it through my wolfnose.I wasn’t sure what to expect, but there was no sign of life around the big whitecrypt. Of course they knew I was here.I cut the engine and listened to the quiet. Now I could hear tense, angry murmursfrom just the other side of the wide double doors. Someone was home. I heard myname and I smiled, happy to think I was causing them a little stress.I took one big gulp of air—it would only be worse inside—and leaped up the porchstairs in one bound.The door opened before my fist touched it, and the doctor stood in the frame, hiseyes grave.“Hello, Jacob,” he said, calmer than I would have expected. “How are you?”I took a deep breath through my mouth. The reek pouring through the door wasoverpowering.
    • 126I was disappointed that it was Carlisle who answered. I’d rather Edward hadcome through the door, fangs out. Carlisle was so… just human or something.Maybe it was the house calls he made last spring when I got busted up. But itmade me uncomfortable to look into his face and know that I was planning to killhim if I could.“I heard Bella made it back alive,” I said.“Er, Jacob, it’s not really the best time.” The doctor seemed uncomfortable, too,but not in the way I expected. “Could we do this later?”I stared at him, dumbfounded. Was he asking to post-pone the death match for amore convenient time?And then I heard Bella’s voice, cracked and rough, and I couldn’t think aboutanything else.“Why not?” she asked someone. “Are we keeping secrets from Jacob, too? What’sthe point?”Her voice was not what I was expecting. I tried to remember the voices of theyoung vampires we’d fought in the spring, but all I’d registered was snarling.Maybe those newborns hadn’t had the piercing, ringing sound of the older ones,either. Maybe all new vampires sounded hoarse.“Come in, please, Jacob,” Bella croaked more loudly.Carlisle’s eyes tightened.I wondered if Bella was thirsty. My eyes narrowed, too.“Excuse me,” I said to the doctor as I stepped around him. It was hard—it wentagainst all my instincts to turn my back to one of them. Not impossible, though. Ifthere was such a thing as a safe vampire, it was the strangely gentle leader.I would stay away from Carlisle when the fight started. There were enough ofthem to kill without including him.I sidestepped into the house, keeping my back to the wall. My eyes swept theroom—it was unfamiliar. The last time I’d been in here it had been all done up fora party. Everything was bright and pale now. Including the six vampires standingin a group by the white sofa.They were all here, all together, but that was not what froze me where I stood andhad my jaw dropping to the floor.It was Edward. It was the expression on his face.
    • 127I’d seen him angry, and I’d seen him arrogant, and once I’d seen him in pain. Butthis—this was beyond agony. His eyes were half-crazed. He didn’t look up to glareat me. He stared down at the couch beside him with an expression like someonehad lit him on fire. His hands were rigid claws at his side.I couldn’t even enjoy his anguish. I could only think of one thing that would makehim look like that, and my eyes followed his.I saw her at the same moment that I caught her scent.Her warm, clean, human scent.Bella was half-hidden behind the arm of the sofa, curled up in a loose fetalposition, her arms wrapped around her knees. For a long second I could seenothing except that she was still the Bella that I loved, her skin still a soft, palepeach, her eyes still the same chocolate brown. My heart thudded a strange,broken meter, and I wondered if this was just some lying dream that I was aboutto wake up from.Then I really saw her.There were deep circles under her eyes, dark circles that jumped out because herface was all haggard. Was she thinner? Her skin seemed tight—like hercheekbones might break right through it. Most of her dark hair was pulled awayfrom her face into a messy knot, but a few strands stuck limply to her foreheadand neck, to the sheen of sweat that covered her skin. There was something abouther fingers and wrists that looked so fragile it was scary.She was sick. Very sick.Not a lie. The story Charlie’d told Billy was not a story. While I stared, eyesbugging, her skin turned light green.The blond bloodsucker—the showy one, Rosalie—bent over her, cutting into myview, hovering in a strange, protective way.This was wrong. I knew how Bella felt about almost everything—her thoughtswere so obvious; sometimes it was like they were printed on her forehead. So shedidn’t have to tell me every detail of a situation for me to get it. I knew that Belladidn’t like Rosalie. I’d seen it in the set of her lips when she talked about her. Notjust that she didn’t like her. She was afraid of Rosalie. Or she had been.There was no fear as Bella glanced up at her now. Her expression was…apologetic or something. Then Rosalie snatched a basin from the floor and held itunder Bella’s chin just in time for Bella to throw up noisily into it.
    • 128Edward fell to his knees by Bella’s side—his eyes all tortured-looking—andRosalie held out her hand, warning him to keep back.None of it made sense.When she could raise her head, Bella smiled weakly at me, sort of embarrassed.“Sorry about that,” she whispered to me.Edward moaned real quiet. His head slumped against Bella’s knees. She put oneof her hands against his cheek. Like she was comforting him.I didn’t realize my legs had carried me forward until Rosalie hissed at me,suddenly appearing between me and the couch. She was like a person on a TVscreen. I didn’t care she was there. She didn’t seem real.“Rose, don’t,” Bella whispered. “It’s fine.”Blondie moved out of my way, though I could tell she hated to do it. Scowling atme, she crouched by Bella’s head, tensed to spring. She was easier to ignore thanI ever would have dreamed.“Bella, what’s wrong?” I whispered. Without thinking about it, I found myself onmy knees, too, leaning over the back of the couch across from her… husband. Hedidn’t seem to notice me, and I barely glanced at him. I reached out for her freehand, taking it in both of mine. Her skin was icy. “Are you all right?”It was a stupid question. She didn’t answer it.“I’m so glad you came to see me today, Jacob,” she said.Even though I knew Edward couldn’t hear her thoughts, he seemed to hear somemeaning I didn’t. He moaned again, into the blanket that covered her, and shestroked his cheek.“What is it, Bella?” I insisted, wrapping my hands tight around her cold, fragilefingers.Instead of answering, she glanced around the room like she was searching forsomething, both a plea and a warning in her look. Six pairs of anxious yellow eyesstared back at her. Finally, she turned to Rosalie.“Help me up, Rose?” she asked.Rosalie’s lips pulled back over her teeth, and she glared up at me like she wantedto rip my throat out. I was sure that was exactly the case.“Please, Rose.”
    • 129The blonde made a face, but leaned over her again, next to Edward, who didn’tmove an inch. She put her arm carefully behind Bella’s shoulders.“No,” I whispered. “Don’t get up. . . .” She looked so weak.“I’m answering your question,” she snapped, sounding a little bit more like theway she usually talked to me.Rosalie pulled Bella off the couch. Edward stayed where he was, sagging forwardtill his face was buried in the cushions. The blanket fell to the ground at Bella’sfeet.Bella’s body was swollen, her torso ballooning out in a strange, sick way. Itstrained against the faded gray sweatshirt that was way too big for her shouldersand arms. The rest of her seemed thinner, like the big bulge had grown out ofwhat it had sucked from her. It took me a second to realize what the deformedpart was—I didn’t understand until she folded her hands tenderly around herbloated stomach, one above and one below. Like she was cradling it.I saw it then, but I still couldn’t believe it. I’d seen her just a month ago. Therewas no way she could be pregnant. Not that pregnant.Except that she was.I didn’t want to see this, didn’t want to think about this. I didn’t want to imaginehim inside her. I didn’t want to know that something I hated so much had takenroot in the body I loved. My stomach heaved, and I had to swallow back vomit.But it was worse than that, so much worse. Her distorted body, the bones jabbingagainst the skin of her face. I could only guess that she looked like this—sopregnant, so sick—because whatever was inside her was taking her life to feed itsown.…Because it was a monster. Just like its father.I always knew he would kill her.His head snapped up as he heard the words inside mine. One second we wereboth on our knees, and then he was on his feet, towering over me. His eyes wereflat black, the circles under them dark purple.“Outside, Jacob,” he snarled.I was on my feet, too. Looking down on him now. This was why I was here.“Let’s do this,” I agreed.
    • 130The big one, Emmett, pushed forward on Edward’s other side, with the hungry-looking one, Jasper, right behind him. I really didn’t care. Maybe my pack wouldclean up the scraps when they finished me off. Maybe not. It didn’t matter.For the tiniest part of a second my eyes touched on the two standing in the back.Esme. Alice. Small and distractingly feminine. Well, I was sure the others wouldkill me before I had to do anything about them. I didn’t want to kill girls… evenvampire girls.Though I might make an exception for that blonde.“No,” Bella gasped, and she stumbled forward, out of balance, to clutch atEdward’s arm. Rosalie moved with her, like there was a chain locking them toeach other.“I just need to talk to him, Bella,” Edward said in a low voice, talking only to her.He reached up to touch her face, to stroke it. This made the room turn red, mademe see fire—that, after all he’d done to her, he was still allowed to touch her thatway. “Don’t strain yourself,” he went on, pleading. “Please rest. We’ll both beback in just a few minutes.”She stared at his face, reading it carefully. Then she nodded and drooped towardthe couch. Rosalie helped lower her back onto the cushions. Bella stared at me,trying to hold my eyes.“Behave,” she insisted. “And then come back.”I didn’t answer. I wasn’t making any promises today. I looked away and thenfollowed Edward out the front door.A random, disjointed voice in my head noted that separating him from the covenhadn’t been so difficult, had it?He kept walking, never checking to see if I was about to spring at his unprotectedback. I supposed he didn’t need to check. He would know when I decided toattack. Which meant I’d have to make that decision very quickly.“I’m not ready for you to kill me yet, Jacob Black,” he whispered as he pacedquickly away from the house. “You’ll have to have a little patience.”Like I cared about his schedule. I growled under my breath. “Patience isn’t myspecialty.”He kept walking, maybe a couple hundred yards down the drive away from thehouse, with me right on his heels. I was all hot, my fingers trembling. On theedge, ready and waiting.
    • 131He stopped without warning and pivoted to face me. His expression froze meagain.For a second I was just a kid—a kid who had lived all of his life in the same tinytown. Just a child. Because I knew I would have to live a lot more, suffer a lotmore, to ever understand the searing agony in Edward’s eyes.He raised a hand as if to wipe sweat from his forehead, but his fingers scrapedagainst his face like they were going to rip his granite skin right off. His black eyesburned in their sockets, out of focus, or seeing things that weren’t there. Hismouth opened like he was going to scream, but nothing came out.This was the face a man would have if he were burning at the stake.For a moment I couldn’t speak. It was too real, this face—I’d seen a shadow of itin the house, seen it in her eyes and his, but this made it final. The last nail in hercoffin.“It’s killing her, right? She’s dying.” And I knew when I said it that my face was awatered-down echo of his. Weaker, different, because I was still in shock. I hadn’twrapped my head around it yet—it was happening too fast. He’d had time to getto this point. And it was different because I’d already lost her so many times, somany ways, in my head. And different because she was never really mine to lose.And different because this wasn’t my fault.“My fault,” Edward whispered, and his knees gave out. He crumpled in front ofme, vulnerable, the easiest target you could imagine.But I felt cold as snow—there was no fire in me.“Yes,” he groaned into the dirt, like he was confessing to the ground. “Yes, it’skilling her.”His broken helplessness irritated me. I wanted a fight, not an execution. Wherewas his smug superiority now?“So why hasn’t Carlisle done anything?” I growled. “He’s a doctor, right? Get itout of her.”He looked up then and answered me in a tired voice. Like he was explaining thisto a kindergartener for the tenth time. “She won’t let us.”It took a minute for the words to sink in. Jeez, she was running true to form. Ofcourse, die for the monster spawn. It was so Bella.
    • 132“You know her well,” he whispered. “How quickly you see.… I didn’t see. Not intime. She wouldn’t talk to me on the way home, not really. I thought she wasfrightened—that would be natural. I thought she was angry with me for puttingher through this, for endangering her life. Again. I never imagined what she wasreally thinking, what she was resolving. Not until my family met us at the airportand she ran right into Rosalie’s arms. Rosalie’s! And then I heard what Rosaliewas thinking. I didn’t understand until I heard that. Yet you understand after onesecond. . . .” He half-sighed, half-groaned.“Just back up a second. She won’t let you.” The sarcasm was acid on my tongue.“Did you ever notice that she’s exactly as strong as a normal hundred-and-ten-pound human girl? How stupid are you vamps? Hold her down and knock her outwith drugs.”“I wanted to,” he whispered. “Carlisle would have. . . .”What, too noble were they?“No. Not noble. Her bodyguard complicated things.”Oh. His story hadn’t made much sense before, but it fit together now. So that’swhat Blondie was up to. What was in it for her, though? Did the beauty queenwant Bella to die so bad?“Maybe,” he said. “Rosalie doesn’t look at it quite that way.”“So take the blonde out first. Your kind can be put back together, right? Turn herinto a jigsaw and take care of Bella.”“Emmett and Esme are backing her up. Emmett would never let us… and Carlislewon’t help me with Esme against it. . . .” He trailed off, his voice disappearing.“You should have left Bella with me.”“Yes.”It was a bit late for that, though. Maybe he should have thought about all thisbefore he knocked her up with the life-sucking monster.He stared up at me from inside his own personal hell, and I could see that heagreed with me.“We didn’t know,” he said, the words as quiet as a breath. “I never dreamed.There’s never been anything like Bella and I before. How could we know that ahuman was able conceive a child with one of us—”“When the human should get ripped to shreds in the process?”
    • 133“Yes,” he agreed in a tense whisper. “They’re out there, the sadistic ones, theincubus, the succubus. They exist. But the seduction is merely a prelude to thefeast. No one survives.” He shook his head like the idea revolted him. Like he wasany different.“I didn’t realize they had a special name for what you are,” I spit.He stared up at me with a face that looked a thousand years old.“Even you, Jacob Black, cannot hate me as much as I hate myself.”Wrong, I thought, too enraged to speak.“Killing me now doesn’t save her,” he said quietly.“So what does?”“Jacob, you have to do something for me.”“The hell I do, parasite!”He kept staring at me with those half-tired, half-crazy eyes. “For her?”I clenched my teeth together hard. “I did everything I could to keep her awayfrom you. Every single thing. It’s too late.”“You know her, Jacob. You connect to her on a level that I don’t even understand.You are part of her, and she is part of you. She won’t listen to me, because shethinks I’m underestimating her. She thinks she’s strong enough for this. . . .” Hechoked and then swallowed. “She might listen to you.”“Why would she?”He lurched to his feet, his eyes burning brighter than before, wilder. I wonderedif he was really going crazy. Could vampires lose their minds?“Maybe,” he answered my thought. “I don’t know. It feels like it.” He shook hishead. “I have to try to hide this in front of her, because stress makes her more ill.She can’t keep anything down as it is. I have to be composed; I can’t make itharder. But that doesn’t matter now. She has to listen to you!”“I can’t tell her anything you haven’t. What do you want me to do? Tell her she’sstupid? She probably already knows that. Tell her she’s going to die? I bet sheknows that, too.”“You can offer her what she wants.”
    • 134He wasn’t making any sense. Part of the crazy?“I don’t care about anything but keeping her alive,” he said, suddenly focusednow. “If it’s a child she wants, she can have it. She can have half a dozen babies.Anything she wants.” He paused for one beat. “She can have puppies, if that’swhat it takes.”He met my stare for a moment and his face was frenzied under the thin layer ofcontrol. My hard scowl crumbled as I processed his words, and I felt my mouthpop open in shock.“But not this way!” he hissed before I could recover. “Not this thing that’s suckingthe life from her while I stand there helpless! Watching her sicken and wasteaway. Seeing it hurting her.” He sucked in a fast breath like someone hadpunched him in the gut. “You have to make her see reason, Jacob. She won’tlisten to me anymore. Rosalie’s always there, feeding her insanity—encouragingher. Protecting her. No, protecting it. Bella’s life means nothing to her.”The noise coming from my throat sounded like I was choking.What was he saying? That Bella should, what? Have a baby? With me? What?How? Was he giving her up? Or did he think she wouldn’t mind being shared?“Whichever. Whatever keeps her alive.”“That’s the craziest thing you’ve said yet,” I mumbled.“She loves you.”“Not enough.”“She’s ready to die to have a child. Maybe she’d accept something less extreme.”“Don’t you know her at all?”“I know, I know. It’s going to take a lot of convincing. That’s why I need you. Youknow how she thinks. Make her see sense.”I couldn’t think about what he was suggesting. It was too much. Impossible.Wrong. Sick. Borrowing Bella for the weekends and then returning her Mondaymorning like a rental movie? So messed up.So tempting.I didn’t want to consider, didn’t want to imagine, but the images came anyway.I’d fantasized about Bella that way too many times, back when there was still apossibility of us, and then long after it was clear that the fantasies would only
    • 135leave festering sores because there was no possibility, none at all. I hadn’t beenable to help myself then. I couldn’t stop myself now. Bella in my arms, Bellasighing my name…Worse still, this new image I’d never had before, one that by all rights shouldn’thave existed for me. Not yet. An image I knew I wouldn’t’ve suffered over foryears if he hadn’t shoved it in my head now. But it stuck there, winding threadsthrough my brain like a weed—poisonous and unkillable. Bella, healthy andglowing, so different than now, but something the same: her body, not distorted,changed in a more natural way. Round with my child.I tried to escape the venomous weed in my mind. “Make Bella see sense? Whatuniverse do you live in?”“At least try.”I shook my head fast. He waited, ignoring the negative answer because he couldhear the conflict in my thoughts.“Where is this psycho crap coming from? Are you making this up as you go?”“I’ve been thinking of nothing but ways to save her since I realized what she wasplanning to do. What she would die to do. But I didn’t know how to contact you. Iknew you wouldn’t listen if I called. I would have come to find you soon, if youhadn’t come today. But it’s hard to leave her, even for a few minutes. Hercondition… it changes so fast. The thing is… growing. Swiftly. I can’t be awayfrom her now.”“What is it?”“None of us have any idea. But it is stronger than she is. Already.”I could suddenly see it then—see the swelling monster in my head, breaking herfrom the inside out.“Help me stop it,” he whispered. “Help me stop this from happening.”“How? By offering my stud services?” He didn’t even flinch when I said that, but Idid. “You’re really sick. She’ll never listen to this.”“Try. There’s nothing to lose now. How will it hurt?”It would hurt me. Hadn’t I taken enough rejection from Bella without this?“A little pain to save her? Is it such a high cost?”“But it won’t work.”
    • 136“Maybe not. Maybe it will confuse her, though. Maybe she’ll falter in her resolve.One moment of doubt is all I need.”“And then you pull the rug out from under the offer? ‘Just kidding, Bella’?”“If she wants a child, that’s what she gets. I won’t rescind.”I couldn’t believe I was even thinking about this. Bella would punch me—not thatI cared about that, but it would probably break her hand again. I shouldn’t lethim talk to me, mess with my head. I should just kill him now.“Not now,” he whispered. “Not yet. Right or wrong, it would destroy her, and youknow it. No need to be hasty. If she won’t listen to you, you’ll get your chance.The moment Bella’s heart stops beating, I will be begging for you to kill me.”“You won’t have to beg long.”The hint of a worn smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. “I’m very muchcounting on that.”“Then we have a deal.”He nodded and held out his cold stone hand.Swallowing my disgust, I reached out to take his hand. My fingers closed aroundthe rock, and I shook it once.“We have a deal,” he agreed.
    • 137 10. WHY DIDN’T I JUST WALK AWAY? OH RIGHT, BECAUSE I’M AN IDIOT.I felt like—like I don’t know what. Like this wasn’t real. Like I was in some Gothversion of a bad sitcom. Instead of being the A/V dweeb about to ask the headcheerleader to the prom, I was the finished-second-place werewolf about to askthe vampire’s wife to shack up and procreate. Nice.No, I wouldn’t do it. It was twisted and wrong. I was going to forget all aboutwhat he’d said.But I would talk to her. I’d try to make her listen to me.And she wouldn’t. Just like always.Edward didn’t answer or comment on my thoughts as he led the way back to thehouse. I wondered about the place that he’d chosen to stop. Was it far enoughfrom the house that the others couldn’t hear his whispers? Was that the point?Maybe. When we walked through the door, the other Cullens’ eyes weresuspicious and confused. No one looked disgusted or outraged. So they must nothave heard either favor Edward had asked me for.I hesitated in the open doorway, not sure what to do now. It was better rightthere, with a little bit of breathable air blowing in from outside.Edward walked into the middle of the huddle, shoulders stiff. Bella watched himanxiously, and then her eyes flickered to me for a second. Then she was watchinghim again.Her face turned a grayish pale, and I could see what he meant about the stressmaking her feel worse.“We’re going to let Jacob and Bella speak privately,” Edward said. There was noinflection at all in his voice. Robotic.“Over my pile of ashes,” Rosalie hissed at him. She was still hovering by Bella’shead, one of her cold hands placed possessively on Bella’s sallow cheek.Edward didn’t look at her. “Bella,” he said in that same empty tone. “Jacob wantsto talk to you. Are you afraid to be alone with him?”Bella looked at me, confused. Then she looked at Rosalie.“Rose, it’s fine. Jake’s not going to hurt us. Go with Edward.”
    • 138“It might be a trick,” the blonde warned.“I don’t see how,” Bella said.“Carlisle and I will always be in your sight, Rosalie,” Edward said. Theemotionless voice was cracking, showing the anger through it. “We’re the onesshe’s afraid of.”“No,” Bella whispered. Her eyes were glistening, her lashes wet. “No, Edward. I’mnot. . . .”He shook his head, smiling a little. The smile was painful to look at. “I didn’tmean it that way, Bella. I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.”Sickening. He was right—she was beating herself up about hurting his feelings.The girl was a classic martyr. She’d totally been born in the wrong century. Sheshould have lived back when she could have gotten herself fed to some lions for agood cause.“Everyone,” Edward said, his hand stiffly motioning toward the door. “Please.”The composure he was trying to keep up for Bella was shaky. I could see howclose he was to that burning man he’d been outside. The others saw it, too.Silently, they moved out the door while I shifted out of the way. They moved fast;my heart beat twice, and the room was cleared except for Rosalie, hesitating inthe middle of the floor, and Edward, still waiting by the door.“Rose,” Bella said quietly. “I want you to go.”The blonde glared at Edward and then gestured for him to go first. Hedisappeared out the door. She gave me a long warning glower, and then shedisappeared, too.Once we were alone, I crossed the room and sat on the floor next to Bella. I tookboth her cold hands in mine, rubbing them carefully.“Thanks, Jake. That feels good.”“I’m not going to lie, Bells. You’re hideous.”“I know,” she sighed. “I’m scary-looking.”“Thing-from-the-swamp scary,” I agreed.She laughed. “It’s so good having you here. It feels nice to smile. I don’t knowhow much more drama I can stand.”
    • 139I rolled my eyes.“Okay, okay,” she agreed. “I bring it on myself.”“Yeah, you do. What’re you thinking, Bells? Seriously!”“Did he ask you to yell at me?”“Sort of. Though I can’t figure why he thinks you’d listen to me. You never havebefore.”She sighed.“I told you—,” I started to say.“Did you know that ‘I told you so’ has a brother, Jacob?” she asked, cutting meoff. “His name is ‘Shut the hell up.’”“Good one.”She grinned at me. Her skin stretched tight over the bones. “I can’t take credit—Igot it off a rerun of The Simpsons.”“Missed that one.”“It was funny.”We didn’t talk for a minute. Her hands were starting to warm up a little.“Did he really ask you to talk to me?”I nodded. “To talk some sense into you. There’s a battle that’s lost before itstarts.”“So why did you agree?”I didn’t answer. I wasn’t sure I knew.I did know this—every second I spent with her was only going to add to the pain Iwould have to suffer later. Like a junkie with a limited supply, the day ofreckoning was coming for me. The more hits I took now, the harder it would bewhen my supply ran out.“It’ll work out, you know,” she said after a quiet minute. “I believe that.”That made me see red again. “Is dementia one of your symptoms?” I snapped.
    • 140She laughed, though my anger was so real that my hands were shaking aroundhers.“Maybe,” she said. “I’m not saying things will work out easily, Jake. But howcould I have lived through all that I’ve lived through and not believe in magic bythis point?”“Magic?”“Especially for you,” she said. She was smiling. She pulled one of her hands awayfrom mine and pressed it against my cheek. Warmer than before, but it felt coolagainst my skin, like most things did. “More than anyone else, you’ve got somemagic waiting to make things right for you.”“What are you babbling about?”Still smiling. “Edward told me once what it was like—your imprinting thing. Hesaid it was like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, like magic. You’ll find who you’rereally looking for, Jacob, and maybe then all of this will make sense.”If she hadn’t looked so fragile I would’ve been screaming.As it was, I did growl at her.“If you think that imprinting could ever make sense of this insanity . . .” Istruggled for words. “Do you really think that just because I might somedayimprint on some stranger it would make this right?” I jabbed a finger toward herswollen body. “Tell me what the point was then, Bella! What was the point of meloving you? What was the point of you loving him? When you die”—the wordswere a snarl—“how is that ever right again? What’s the point to all the pain?Mine, yours, his! You’ll kill him, too, not that I care about that.” She flinched, butI kept going. “So what was the point of your twisted love story, in the end? Ifthere is any sense, please show me, Bella, because I don’t see it.”She sighed. “I don’t know yet, Jake. But I just… feel… that this is all goingsomewhere good, hard to see as it is now. I guess you could call it faith.”“You’re dying for nothing, Bella! Nothing!”Her hand dropped from my face to her bloated stomach, caressed it. She didn’thave to say the words for me to know what she was thinking. She was dying for it.“I’m not going to die,” she said through her teeth, and I could tell she wasrepeating things she’d said before. “I will keep my heart beating. I’m strongenough for that.”
    • 141“That’s a load of crap, Bella. You’ve been trying to keep up with the supernaturalfor too long. No normal person can do it. You’re not strong enough.” I took herface in my hand. I didn’t have to remind myself to be gentle. Everything about herscreamed breakable.“I can do this. I can do this,” she muttered, sounding a lot like that kids’ bookabout the little engine that could.“Doesn’t look like it to me. So what’s your plan? I hope you have one.”She nodded, not meeting my eyes. “Did you know Esme jumped off a cliff? Whenshe was human, I mean.”“So?”“So she was close enough to dead that they didn’t even bother taking her to theemergency room—they took her right around to the morgue. Her heart was stillbeating, though, when Carlisle found her. . . .”That’s what she’d meant before, about keeping her heart beating.“You’re not planning on surviving this human,” I stated dully.“No. I’m not stupid.” She met my stare then. “I guess you probably have your ownopinion on that point, though.”“Emergency vampirization,” I mumbled.“It worked for Esme. And Emmett, and Rosalie, and even Edward. None of themwere in such great shape. Carlisle only changed them because it was that ordeath. He doesn’t end lives, he saves them.”I felt a sudden twinge of guilt about the good vampire doctor, like before. Ishoved the thought away and started in on the begging.“Listen to me, Bells. Don’t do it that way.” Like before, when the call from Charliehad come, I could see how much difference it really made to me. I realized Ineeded her to stay alive, in some form. In any form. I took a deep breath. “Don’twait until it’s too late, Bella. Not that way. Live. Okay? Just live. Don’t do this tome. Don’t do it to him.” My voice got harder, louder. “You know what he’s goingto do when you die. You’ve seen it before. You want him to go back to thoseItalian killers?” She cringed into the sofa.I left out the part about how that wouldn’t be necessary this time.Struggling to make my voice softer, I asked, “Remember when I got mangled upby those newborns? What did you tell me?”
    • 142I waited, but she wouldn’t answer. She pressed her lips together.“You told me to be good and listen to Carlisle,” I reminded her. “And what did Ido? I listened to the vampire. For you.”“You listened because it was the right thing to do.”“Okay—pick either reason.”She took a deep breath. “It’s not the right thing now.” Her gaze touched her biground stomach and she whispered under her breath, “I won’t kill him.”My hands shook again. “Oh, I hadn’t heard the great news. A bouncing baby boy,huh? Shoulda brought some blue balloons.”Her face turned pink. The color was so beautiful—it twisted in my stomach like aknife. A serrated knife, rusty and ragged.I was going to lose this. Again.“I don’t know he’s a boy,” she admitted, a little sheepish. “The ultrasoundwouldn’t work. The membrane around the baby is too hard—like their skin. Sohe’s a little mystery. But I always see a boy in my head.”“It’s not some pretty baby in there, Bella.”“We’ll see,” she said. Almost smug.“You won’t,” I snarled.“You’re very pessimistic, Jacob. There is definitely a chance that I might walkaway from this.”I couldn’t answer. I looked down and breathed deep and slow, trying to get a gripon my fury.“Jake,” she said, and she patted my hair, stroked my cheek. “It’s going to be okay.Shh. It’s okay.”I didn’t look up. “No. It will not be okay.”She wiped something wet from my cheek. “Shh.”“What’s the deal, Bella?” I stared at the pale carpet. My bare feet were dirty,leaving smudges. Good. “I thought the whole point was that you wanted yourvampire more than anything. And now you’re just giving him up? That doesn’t
    • 143make any sense. Since when are you desperate to be a mom? If you wanted thatso much, why did you marry a vampire?”I was dangerously close to that offer he wanted me to make. I could see the wordstaking me that way, but I couldn’t change their direction.She sighed. “It’s not like that. I didn’t really care about having a baby. I didn’teven think about it. It’s not just having a baby. It’s… well… this baby.”“It’s a killer, Bella. Look at yourself.”“He’s not. It’s me. I’m just weak and human. But I can tough this out, Jake, Ican—”“Aw, come on! Shut up, Bella. You can spout this crap to your bloodsucker, butyou’re not fooling me. You know you’re not going to make it.”She glared at me. “I do not know that. I’m worried about it, sure.”“Worried about it,” I repeated through my teeth.She gasped then and clutched at her stomach. My fury vanished like a light switchbeing turned off.“I’m fine,” she panted. “It’s nothing.”But I didn’t hear; her hands had pulled her sweatshirt to the side, and I stared,horrified, at the skin it exposed. Her stomach looked like it was stained with bigsplotches of purple-black ink.She saw my stare, and she yanked the fabric back in place.“He’s strong, that’s all,” she said defensively.The ink spots were bruises.I almost gagged, and I understood what he’d said, about watching it hurt her.Suddenly, I felt a little crazy myself.“Bella,” I said.She heard the change in my voice. She looked up, still breathing heavy, her eyesconfused.“Bella, don’t do this.”“Jake—”
    • 144“Listen to me. Don’t get your back up yet. Okay? Just listen. What if… ?”“What if what?”“What if this wasn’t a one-shot deal? What if it wasn’t all or nothing? What if youjust listened to Carlisle like a good girl, and kept yourself alive?”“I won’t—”“I’m not done yet. So you stay alive. Then you can start over. This didn’t work out.Try again.”She frowned. She raised one hand and touched the place where my eyebrowswere mashing together. Her fingers smoothed my forehead for a moment whileshe tried to make sense of it.“I don’t understand.… What do you mean, try again? You can’t think Edwardwould let me… ? And what difference would it make? I’m sure any baby—”“Yes,” I snapped. “Any kid of his would be the same.”Her tired face just got more confused. “What?”But I couldn’t say any more. There was no point. I would never be able to save herfrom herself. I’d never been able to do that.Then she blinked, and I could see she got it.“Oh. Ugh. Please, Jacob. You think I should kill my baby and replace it with somegeneric substitute? Artificial insemination?” She was mad now. “Why would Iwant to have some stranger’s baby? I suppose it just doesn’t make a difference?Any baby will do?”“I didn’t mean that,” I muttered. “Not a stranger.”She leaned forward. “Then what are you saying?”“Nothing. I’m saying nothing. Same as ever.”“Where did that come from?”“Forget it, Bella.”She frowned, suspicious. “Did he tell you to say that?”I hesitated, surprised that she’d made that leap so quick. “No.”
    • 145“He did, didn’t he?”“No, really. He didn’t say anything about artificial whatever.”Her face softened then, and she sank back against the pillows, looking exhausted.She stared off to the side when she spoke, not talking to me at all. “He would doanything for me. And I’m hurting him so much.… But what is he thinking? That Iwould trade this”—her hand traced across her belly—“for some stranger’s . . .” Shemumbled the last part, and then her voice trailed off. Her eyes were wet.“You don’t have to hurt him,” I whispered. It burned like poison in my mouth tobeg for him, but I knew this angle was probably my best bet for keeping her alive.Still a thousand-to-one odds. “You could make him happy again, Bella. And Ireally think he’s losing it. Honestly, I do.”She didn’t seem to be listening; her hand made small circles on her batteredstomach while she chewed on her lip. It was quiet for a long time. I wondered ifthe Cullens were very far away. Were they listening to my pathetic attempts toreason with her?“Not a stranger?” she murmured to herself. I flinched. “What exactly did Edwardsay to you?” she asked in a low voice.“Nothing. He just thought you might listen to me.”“Not that. About trying again.”Her eyes locked on mine, and I could see that I’d already given too much away.“Nothing.”Her mouth fell open a little. “Wow.”It was silent for a few heartbeats. I looked down at my feet again, unable to meether stare.“He really would do anything, wouldn’t he?” she whispered.“I told you he was going crazy. Literally, Bells.”“I’m surprised you didn’t tell on him right away. Get him in trouble.”When I looked up, she was grinning.“Thought about it.” I tried to grin back, but I could feel the smile mangle on myface.
    • 146She knew what I was offering, and she wasn’t going to think twice about it. I’dknown that she wouldn’t. But it still stung.“There isn’t much you wouldn’t do for me, either, is there?” she whispered. “Ireally don’t know why you bother. I don’t deserve either of you.”“It makes no difference, though, does it?”“Not this time.” She sighed. “I wish I could explain it to you right so that youwould understand. I can’t hurt him”—she pointed to her stomach—“any morethan I could pick up a gun and shoot you. I love him.”“Why do you always have to love the wrong things, Bella?”“I don’t think I do.”I cleared the lump out of my throat so that I could make my voice hard like Iwanted it. “Trust me.”I started to get to my feet.“Where are you going?”“I’m not doing any good here.”She held out her thin hand, pleading. “Don’t go.”I could feel the addiction sucking at me, trying to keep me near her.“I don’t belong here. I’ve got to get back.”“Why did you come today?” she asked, still reaching limply.“Just to see if you were really alive. I didn’t believe you were sick like Charliesaid.”I couldn’t tell from her face whether she bought that or not.“Will you come back again? Before . . .”“I’m not going to hang around and watch you die, Bella.”She flinched. “You’re right, you’re right. You should go.”I headed for the door.
    • 147“Bye,” she whispered behind me. “Love you, Jake.”I almost went back. I almost turned around and fell down on my knees andstarted begging again. But I knew that I had to quit Bella, quit her cold turkey,before she killed me, like she was going to kill him.“Sure, sure,” I mumbled on my way out.I didn’t see any of the vampires. I ignored my bike, standing all alone in themiddle of the meadow. It wasn’t fast enough for me now. My dad would befreaked out—Sam, too. What would the pack make of the fact that they hadn’theard me phase? Would they think the Cullens got me before I’d had the chance?I stripped down, not caring who might be watching, and started running. Iblurred into wolf mid-stride.They were waiting. Of course they were.Jacob, Jake, eight voices chorused in relief.Come home now, the Alpha voice ordered. Sam was furious.I felt Paul fade out, and I knew Billy and Rachel were waiting to hear what hadhappened to me. Paul was too anxious to give them the good news that I wasn’tvampire chow to listen to the whole story.I didn’t have to tell the pack I was on my way—they could see the forest blurringpast me as I sprinted for home. I didn’t have to tell them that I was half-pastcrazy, either. The sickness in my head was obvious.They saw all the horror—Bella’s mottled stomach; her raspy voice: he’s strong,that’s all; the burning man in Edward’s face: watching her sicken and wasteaway… seeing it hurting her; Rosalie crouched over Bella’s limp body: Bella’s lifemeans nothing to her—and for once, no one had anything to say.Their shock was just a silent shout in my head. Wordless.!!!!I was halfway home before anyone recovered. Then they all started running tomeet me.It was almost dark—the clouds covered the sunset completely. I risked dartingacross the freeway and made it without being seen.We met up about ten miles out of La Push, in a clearing left by the loggers. It wasout of the way, wedged between two spurs of the mountain, where no one wouldsee us. Paul found them when I did, so the pack was complete.
    • 148The babble in my head was total chaos. Everyone shouting at once.Sam’s hackles were sticking straight up, and he was growling in an unbrokenstream as he paced back and forth around the top of the ring. Paul and Jaredmoved like shadows behind him, their ears flat against the sides of their head.The whole circle was agitated, on their feet and snarling in low bursts.At first their anger was undefined, and I thought I was in for it. I was too messedup to care about that. They could do whatever they wanted to me forcircumventing orders.And then the unfocused confusion of thoughts began to move together.How can this be? What does it mean? What will it be?Not safe. Not right. Dangerous.Unnatural. Monstrous. An abomination.We can’t allow it.The pack was pacing in synchronization now, thinking in synchronization, all butmyself and one other. I sat beside whichever brother it was, too dazed to lookover with either my eyes or my mind and see who was next to me, while the packcircled around us.The treaty does not cover this.This puts everyone in danger.I tried to understand the spiraling voices, tried to follow the curling pathway thethoughts made to see where they were leading, but it wasn’t making sense. Thepictures in the center of their thoughts were my pictures—the very worst of them.Bella’s bruises, Edward’s face as he burned.They fear it, too.But they won’t do anything about it.Protecting Bella Swan.We can’t let that influence us.The safety of our families, of everyone here, is more important than one human.If they won’t kill it, we have to.
    • 149Protect the tribe.Protect our families.We have to kill it before it’s too late.Another of my memories, Edward’s words this time: The thing is growing.Swiftly.I struggled to focus, to pick out individual voices.No time to waste, Jared thought.It will mean a fight, Embry cautioned. A bad one.We’re ready, Paul insisted.We’ll need surprise on our side, Sam thought.If we catch them divided, we can take them down separately. It will increaseour chances of victory, Jared thought, starting to strategize now.I shook my head, rising slowly to my feet. I felt unsteady there—like the circlingwolves were making me dizzy. The wolf beside me got up, too. His shoulderpushed against mine, propping me up.Wait, I thought.The circling paused for one beat, and then they were pacing again.There’s little time, Sam said.But—what are you thinking? You wouldn’t attack them for breaking the treatythis afternoon. Now you’re planning an ambush, when the treaty is still intact?This is not something our treaty anticipated, Sam said. This is a danger to everyhuman in the area. We don’t know what kind of creature the Cullens have bred,but we know that it is strong and fast-growing. And it will be too young tofollow any treaty. Remember the newborn vampires we fought? Wild, violent,beyond the reach of reason or restraint. Imagine one like that, but protected bythe Cullens.We don’t know— I tried to interrupt.We don’t know, he agreed. And we can’t take chances with the unknown in thiscase. We can only allow the Cullens to exist while we’re absolutely sure that theycan be trusted not to cause harm. This… thing cannot be trusted.
    • 150They don’t like it any more than we do.Sam pulled Rosalie’s face, her protective crouch, from my mind and put it ondisplay for everyone.Some are ready to fight for it, no matter what it is.It’s just a baby, for crying out loud.Not for long, Leah whispered.Jake, buddy, this is a big problem, Quil said. We can’t just ignore it.You’re making it into something bigger than it is, I argued. The only one who’sin danger here is Bella.Again by her own choice, Sam said. But this time her choice affects us all.I don’t think so.We can’t take that chance. We won’t allow a blood drinker to hunt on our lands.Then tell them to leave, the wolf who was still supporting me said. It was Seth. Ofcourse.And inflict the menace on others? When blood drinkers cross our land, wedestroy them, no matter where they plan to hunt. We protect everyone we can.This is crazy, I said. This afternoon you were afraid to put the pack in danger.This afternoon I didn’t know our families were at risk.I can’t believe this! How’re you going to kill this creature without killing Bella?There were no words, but the silence was full of meaning.I howled. She’s human, too! Doesn’t our protection apply to her?She’s dying anyway, Leah thought. We’ll just shorten the process.That did it. I leaped away from Seth, toward his sister, with my teeth bared. I wasabout to catch her left hind leg when I felt Sam’s teeth cut into my flank, draggingme back.I howled in pain and fury and turned on him.
    • 151Stop! he ordered in the double timbre of the Alpha.My legs seemed to buckle under me. I jerked to a halt, only managing to keep onmy feet by sheer willpower.He turned his gaze away from me. You will not be cruel to him, Leah, hecommanded her. Bella’s sacrifice is a heavy price, and we will all recognize that.It is against everything we stand for to take a human life. Making an exceptionto that code is a bleak thing. We will all mourn for what we do tonight.Tonight? Seth repeated, shocked. Sam—I think we should talk about this somemore. Consult with the Elders, at least. You can’t seriously mean for us to—We can’t afford your tolerance for the Cullens now. There is no time for debate.You will do as you are told, Seth.Seth’s front knees folded, and his head fell forward under the weight of theAlpha’s command.Sam paced in a tight circle around the two of us.We need the whole pack for this. Jacob, you are our strongest fighter. You willfight with us tonight. I understand that this is hard for you, so you willconcentrate on their fighters—Emmett and Jasper Cullen. You don’t have to beinvolved with the… other part. Quil and Embry will fight with you.My knees trembled; I struggled to hold myself upright while the voice of theAlpha lashed at my will.Paul, Jared, and I will take on Edward and Rosalie. I think, from theinformation Jacob has brought us, they will be the ones guarding Bella. Carlisleand Alice will also be close, possibly Esme. Brady, Collin, Seth, and Leah willconcentrate on them. Whoever has a clear line on—we all heard him mentallystutter over Bella’s name—the creature will take it. Destroying the creature isour first priority.The pack rumbled in nervous agreement. The tension had everyone’s fur standingon end. The pacing was quicker, and the sound of the paws against the brackishfloor was sharper, toenails tearing into the soil.Only Seth and I were still, the eye in the center of a storm of bared teeth andflattened ears. Seth’s nose was almost touching the ground, bowed under Sam’scommands. I felt his pain at the coming disloyalty. For him this was a betrayal—during that one day of alliance, fighting beside Edward Cullen, Seth had trulybecome the vampire’s friend.
    • 152There was no resistance in him, however. He would obey no matter how much ithurt him. He had no other choice.And what choice did I have? When the Alpha spoke, the pack followed.Sam had never pushed his authority this far before; I knew he honestly hated tosee Seth kneeling before him like a slave at the foot of his master. He wouldn’tforce this if he didn’t believe that he had no other choice. He couldn’t lie to uswhen we were linked mind to mind like this. He really believed it was our duty todestroy Bella and the monster she carried. He really believed we had no time towaste. He believed it enough to die for it.I saw that he would face Edward himself; Edward’s ability to read our thoughtsmade him the greatest threat in Sam’s mind. Sam would not let someone elsetake on that danger.He saw Jasper as the second-greatest opponent, which is why he’d given him tome. He knew that I had the best chance of any of the pack to win that fight. He’dleft the easiest targets for the younger wolves and Leah. Little Alice was nodanger without her future vision to guide her, and we knew from our time ofalliance that Esme was not a fighter. Carlisle would be more of a challenge, buthis hatred of violence would hinder him.I felt sicker than Seth as I watched Sam plan it out, trying to work the angles togive each member of the pack the best chance of survival.Everything was inside out. This afternoon, I’d been chomping at the bit to attackthem. But Seth had been right—it wasn’t a fight I’d been ready for. I’d blindedmyself with that hate. I hadn’t let myself look at it carefully, because I must haveknown what I would see if I did.Carlisle Cullen. Looking at him without that hate clouding my eyes, I couldn’tdeny that killing him was murder. He was good. Good as any human weprotected. Maybe better. The others, too, I supposed, but I didn’t feel as stronglyabout them. I didn’t know them as well. It was Carlisle who would hate fightingback, even to save his own life. That’s why we would be able to kill him—becausehe wouldn’t want us, his enemies, to die.This was wrong.And it wasn’t just because killing Bella felt like killing me, like suicide.Pull it together, Jacob, Sam ordered. The tribe comes first.I was wrong today, Sam.Your reasons were wrong then. But now we have a duty to fulfill.
    • 153I braced myself. No.Sam snarled and stopped pacing in front of me. He stared into my eyes and adeep growl slid between his teeth.Yes, the Alpha decreed, his double voice blistering with the heat of his authority.There are no loopholes tonight. You, Jacob, are going to fight the Cullens withus. You, with Quil and Embry, will take care of Jasper and Emmett. You areobligated to protect the tribe. That is why you exist. You will perform thisobligation.My shoulders hunched as the edict crushed me. My legs collapsed, and I was onmy belly under him.No member of the pack could refuse the Alpha.
    • 154 11. THE TWO THINGS AT THE VERY TOP OF MY THINGS-I-NEVER-WANT-TO-DO LISTSam started moving the others into formation while I was still on the ground.Embry and Quil were at my sides, waiting for me to recover and take the point.I could feel the drive, the need, to get on my feet and lead them. The compulsiongrew, and I fought it uselessly, cringing on the ground where I was.Embry whined quietly in my ear. He didn’t want to think the words, afraid that hewould bring me to Sam’s attention again. I felt his wordless plea for me to get up,for me to get this over with and be done with it.There was fear in the pack, not so much for self but for the whole. We couldn’timagine that we would all make it out alive tonight. Which brothers would welose? Which minds would leave us forever? Which grieving families would we beconsoling in the morning?My mind began to work with theirs, to think in unison, as we dealt with thesefears. Automatically, I pushed up from the ground and shook out my coat.Embry and Quil huffed in relief. Quil touched his nose to my side once.Their minds were filled with our challenge, our assignment. We rememberedtogether the nights we’d watched the Cullens practicing for the fight with thenewborns. Emmett Cullen was strongest, but Jasper would be the biggerproblem. He moved like a lightning strike—power and speed and death rolledinto one. How many centuries’ experience did he have? Enough that all the otherCullens looked to him for guidance.I’ll take point, if you want flank, Quil offered. There was more excitement in hismind than most of the others. When Quil had watched Jasper’s instruction thosenights, he’d been dying to test his skill against the vampire’s. For him, this wouldbe a contest. Even knowing it was his life on the line, he saw it that way. Paul waslike that, too, and the kids who had never been in battle, Collin and Brady. Sethprobably would’ve been the same—if the opponents were not his friends.Jake? Quil nudged me. How do you want to roll?I just shook my head. I couldn’t concentrate—the compulsion to follow orders feltlike puppet strings hooked into all of my muscles. One foot forward, now another.Seth was dragging behind Collin and Brady—Leah had assumed point there. Sheignored Seth while planning with the others, and I could see that she’d ratherleave him out of the fight. There was a maternal edge to her feelings for her
    • 155younger brother. She wished Sam would send him home. Seth didn’t registerLeah’s doubts. He was adjusting to the puppet strings, too.Maybe if you stopped resisting…, Embry whispered.Just focus on our part. The big ones. We can take them down. We own them!Quil was working himself up—like a pep talk before a big game.I could see how easy it would be—to think about nothing more than my part. Itwasn’t hard to imaging attacking Jasper and Emmett. We’d been close to thatbefore. I’d thought of them as enemies for a very long time. I could do that nowagain.I just had to forget that they were protecting the same thing I would protect. I hadto forget the reason why I might want them to win.…Jake, Embry warned. Keep your head in the game.My feet moved sluggishly, pulling against the drag of the strings.There’s no point fighting it, Embry whispered again.He was right. I would end up doing what Sam wanted, if he was willing to push it.And he was. Obviously.There was a good reason for the Alpha’s authority. Even a pack as strong as ourswasn’t much of a force without a leader. We had to move together, to thinktogether, in order to be effective. And that required the body to have a head.So what if Sam was wrong now? There was nothing anyone could do. No onecould dispute his decision.Except.And there it was—a thought I’d never, never wanted to have. But now, with mylegs all tied up in strings, I recognized the exception with relief—more than relief,with a fierce joy.No one could dispute the Alpha’s decision—except for me.I hadn’t earned anything. But there were things that had been born in me, thingsthat I’d left unclaimed.I’d never wanted to lead the pack. I didn’t want to do it now. I didn’t want theresponsibility for all our fates resting on my shoulders. Sam was better at thatthan I would ever be.
    • 156But he was wrong tonight.And I had not been born to kneel to him.The bonds fell off my body the second that I embraced my birthright.I could feel it gathering in me, both a freedom and also a strange, hollow power.Hollow because an Alpha’s power came from his pack, and I had no pack. For asecond, loneliness overwhelmed me.I had no pack now.But I was straight and strong as I walked to where Sam stood, planning with Pauland Jared. He turned at the sound of my advance, and his black eyes narrowed.No, I told him again.He heard it right away, heard the choice that I’d made in the sound of the Alphavoice in my thoughts.He jumped back a half step with a shocked yelp.Jacob? What have you done?I won’t follow you, Sam. Not for something so wrong.He stared at me, stunned. You would… you would choose your enemies overyour family?They aren’t—I shook my head, clearing it—they aren’t our enemies. They neverhave been. Until I really thought about destroying them, thought it through, Ididn’t see that.This isn’t about them, he snarled at me. This is about Bella. She has never beenthe one for you, she has never chosen you, but you continue to destroy your lifefor her!They were hard words, but true words. I sucked in a big gulp of air, breathingthem in.Maybe you’re right. But you’re going to destroy the pack over her, Sam. Nomatter how many of them survive tonight, they will always have murder ontheir hands.We have to protect our families!I know what you’ve decided, Sam. But you don’t decide for me, not anymore.
    • 157Jacob—you can’t turn your back on the tribe.I heard the double echo of his Alpha command, but it was weightless this time. Itno longer applied to me. He clenched his jaw, trying to force me to respond to hiswords.I stared into his furious eyes. Ephraim Black’s son was not born to follow LeviUley’s.Is this it, then, Jacob Black? His hackles rose and his muzzle pulled back from histeeth. Paul and Jared snarled and bristled at his sides. Even if you can defeat me,the pack will never follow you!Now I jerked back, a surprised whine escaping my throat.Defeat you? I’m not going to fight you, Sam.Then what’s your plan? I’m not stepping aside so that you can protect thevampire spawn at the tribe’s expense.I’m not telling you to step aside.If you order them to follow you—I’ll never take anyone’s will away from him.His tail whipped back and forth as he recoiled from the judgment in my words.Then he took a step forward so that we were toe to toe, his exposed teeth inchesfrom mine. I hadn’t noticed till this moment that I’d grown taller than him.There cannot be more than one Alpha. The pack has chosen me. Will you rip usapart tonight? Will you turn on your brothers? Or will you end this insanity andjoin us again? Every word was layered with command, but it couldn’t touch me.Alpha blood ran undiluted in my veins.I could see why there was never more than one Alpha male in a pack. My bodywas responding to the challenge. I could feel the instinct to defend my claimrising in me. The primitive core of my wolf-self tensed for the battle ofsupremacy.I focused all my energy to control that reaction. I would not fall into a pointless,destructive fight with Sam. He was my brother still, even though I was rejectinghim.There is only one Alpha for this pack. I’m not contesting that. I’m just choosingto go my own way.
    • 158Do you belong to a coven now, Jacob?I flinched.I don’t know, Sam. But I do know this—He shrunk back as he felt the weight of the Alpha in my tone. It affected himmore than his touched me. Because I had been born to lead him.I will stand between you and the Cullens. I won’t just watch while the pack killsinnocent—it was hard to apply that word to vampires, but it was true—people.The pack is better than that. Lead them in the right direction, Sam.I turned my back on him, and a chorus of howls tore into the air around me.Digging my nails into the earth, I raced away from the uproar I’d caused. I didn’thave much time. At least Leah was the only one with a prayer of outrunning me,and I had a head start.The howling faded with the distance, and I took comfort as the sound continuedto rip apart the quiet night. They weren’t after me yet.I had to warn the Cullens before the pack could get it together and stop me. If theCullens were prepared, it might give Sam a reason to rethink this before it wastoo late. I sprinted toward the white house I still hated, leaving my home behindme. Home didn’t belong to me anymore. I’d turned my back on it.Today had begun like any other day. Made it home from patrol with the rainysunrise, breakfast with Billy and Rachel, bad TV, bickering with Paul… How did itchange so completely, turn all surreal? How did everything get messed up andtwisted so that I was here now, all alone, an unwilling Alpha, cut off from mybrothers, choosing vampires over them?The sound I’d been fearing interrupted my dazed thoughts—it was the soft impactof big paws against the ground, chasing after me. I threw myself forward,rocketing through the black forest. I just had to get close enough so that Edwardcould hear the warning in my head. Leah wouldn’t be able to stop me alone.And then I caught the mood of the thoughts behind me. Not anger, butenthusiasm. Not chasing… but following.My stride broke. I staggered two steps before it evened out again.Wait up. My legs aren’t as long as yours.SETH! What do you think you’re DOING? GO HOME!
    • 159He didn’t answer, but I could feel his excitement as he kept right on after me. Icould see through his eyes as he could see through mine. The night scene wasbleak for me—full of despair. For him, it was hopeful.I hadn’t realized I was slowing down, but suddenly he was on my flank, runningin position beside me.I am not joking, Seth! This is no place for you. Get out of here.The gangly tan wolf snorted. I’ve got your back, Jacob. I think you’re right. AndI’m not going to stand behind Sam when—Oh yes you are the hell going to stand behind Sam! Get your furry butt back toLa Push and do what Sam tells you to do.No.Go, Seth!Is that an order, Jacob?His question brought me up short. I skidded to a halt, my nails gouging furrowsin the mud.I’m not ordering anyone to do anything. I’m just telling you what you alreadyknow.He plopped down on his haunches beside me. I’ll tell you what I know—I knowthat it’s awful quiet. Haven’t you noticed?I blinked. My tail swished nervously as I realized what he was thinkingunderneath the words. It wasn’t quiet in one sense. Howls still filled the air, faraway in the west.They haven’t phased back, Seth said.I knew that. The pack would be on red alert now. They would be using the mindlink to see all sides clearly. But I couldn’t hear what they were thinking. I couldonly hear Seth. No one else.Looks to me like separate packs aren’t linked. Huh. Guess there was no reasonfor our fathers to know that before. ’Cause there was no reason for separatepacks before. Never enough wolves for two. Wow. It’s really quiet. Sort of eerie.But also kinda nice, don’t you think? I bet it was easier, like this, for Ephraimand Quil and Levi. Not such a babble with just three. Or just two.Shut up, Seth.
    • 160Yes, sir.Stop that! There are not two packs. There is THE pack, and then there is me.That’s all. So you can go home now.If there aren’t two packs, then why can we hear each other and not the rest? Ithink that when you turned your back on Sam, that was a pretty significantmove. A change. And when I followed you away, I think that was significant,too.You’ve got a point, I conceded. But what can change can change right back.He got up and started trotting toward the east. No time to argue about it now.We should be moving right along before Sam…He was right about that part. There was no time for this argument. I fell into arun again, not pushing myself quite as hard. Seth stayed on my heels, holding theSecond’s traditional place on my right flank.I can run somewhere else, he thought, his nose dipping a little. I didn’t followyou because I was after a promotion.Run wherever you want. Makes no difference to me.There was no sound of pursuit, but we both stepped it up a little at the same time.I was worried now. If I couldn’t tap into the pack’s mind, it was going to makethis more difficult. I’d have no more advance warning of attack than the Cullens.We’ll run patrols, Seth suggested.And what do we do if the pack challenges us? My eyes tightened. Attack ourbrothers? Your sister?No—we sound the alarm and fall back.Good answer. But then what? I don’t think…I know, he agreed. Less confident now. I don’t think I can fight them, either. Butthey won’t be any happier with the idea of attacking us than we are withattacking them. That might be enough to stop them right there. Plus, there’reonly eight of them now.Stop being so… Took me a minute to decide on the right word. Optimistic. It’sgetting on my nerves.No problem. You want me to be all doom and gloom, or just shut up?
    • 161Just shut up.Can do.Really? Doesn’t seem like it.He was finally quiet.And then we were across the road and moving through the forest that ringed theCullens’ house. Could Edward hear us yet?Maybe we should be thinking something like, “We come in peace.”Go for it.Edward? He called the name tentatively. Edward, you there? Okay, now I feelkinda stupid.You sound stupid, too.Think he can hear us?We were less than a mile out now. I think so. Hey, Edward. If you can hear me—circle the wagons, bloodsucker. You’ve got a problem.We’ve got a problem, Seth corrected.Then we broke through the trees into the big lawn. The house was dark, but notempty. Edward stood on the porch between Emmett and Jasper. They were snowwhite in the pale light.“Jacob? Seth? What’s going on?”I slowed and then paced back a few steps. The smell was so sharp through thisnose that it felt like it was honestly burning me. Seth whined quietly, hesitating,and then he fell back behind me.To answer Edward’s question, I let my mind run over the confrontation withSam, moving through it backward. Seth thought with me, filling in the gaps,showing the scene from another angle. We stopped when we got to the part aboutthe “abomination,” because Edward hissed furiously and leaped off the porch.“They want to kill Bella?” he snarled flatly.Emmett and Jasper, not having heard the first part of the conversation, took hisinflectionless question for a statement. They were right next to him in a flash,teeth exposed as they moved on us.
    • 162Hey, now, Seth thought, backing away.“Em, Jazz—not them! The others. The pack is coming.”Emmett and Jasper rocked back on their heels; Emmett turned to Edward whileJasper kept his eyes locked on us.“What’s their problem?” Emmett demanded.“The same one as mine,” Edward hissed. “But they have their own plan to handleit. Get the others. Call Carlisle! He and Esme have to get back here now.”I whined uneasily. They were separated.“They aren’t far,” Edward said in the same dead voice as before.I’m going to go take a look, Seth said. Run the western perimeter.“Will you be in danger, Seth?” Edward asked.Seth and I exchanged a glance.Don’t think so, we thought together. And then I added, But maybe I should go.Just in case…They’ll be less likely to challenge me, Seth pointed out. I’m just a kid to them.You’re just a kid to me, kid.I’m outta here. You need to coordinate with the Cullens.He wheeled and darted into the darkness. I wasn’t going to order Seth around, soI let him go.Edward and I stood facing each other in the dark meadow. I could hear Emmettmuttering into his phone. Jasper was watching the place where Seth hadvanished into the woods. Alice appeared on the porch and then, after staring atme with anxious eyes for a long moment, she flitted to Jasper’s side. I guessedthat Rosalie was inside with Bella. Still guarding her—from the wrong dangers.“This isn’t the first time I’ve owed you my gratitude, Jacob,” Edward whispered.“I would never have asked for this from you.”I thought of what he’d asked me for earlier today. When it came to Bella, therewere no lines he wouldn’t cross. Yeah, you would.He thought about it and then nodded. “I suppose you’re right about that.”
    • 163I sighed heavily. Well, this isn’t the first time that I didn’t do it for you.“Right,” he murmured.Sorry I didn’t do any good today. Told you she wouldn’t listen to me.“I know. I never really believed she would. But . . .”You had to try. I get it. She any better?His voice and eyes went hollow. “Worse,” he breathed.I didn’t want to let that word sink in. I was grateful when Alice spoke.“Jacob, would you mind switching forms?” Alice asked. “I want to know what’sgoing on.”I shook my head at the same time Edward answered.“He needs to stay linked to Seth.”“Well, then would you be so kind as to tell me what’s happening?”He explained in clipped, emotionless sentences. “The pack thinks Bella’s becomea problem. They foresee potential danger from the… from what she’s carrying.They feel it’s their duty to remove that danger. Jacob and Seth disbanded fromthe pack to warn us. The rest are planning to attack tonight.”Alice hissed, leaning away from me. Emmett and Jasper exchanged a glance, andthen their eyes ranged across the trees.Nobody out here, Seth reported. All’s quiet on the western front.They may go around.I’ll make a loop.“Carlisle and Esme are on their way,” Emmett said. “Twenty minutes, tops.”“We should take up a defensive position,” Jasper said.Edward nodded. “Let’s get inside.”I’ll run perimeter with Seth. If I get too far for you to hear my head, listen formy howl.
    • 164“I will.”They backed into the house, eyes flickering everywhere. Before they were inside, Iturned and ran toward the west.I’m still not finding much, Seth told me.I’ll take half the circle. Move fast—we don’t want them to have a chance to sneakpast us.Seth lurched forward in a sudden burst of speed.We ran in silence, and the minutes passed. I listened to the noises around him,double-checking his judgment.Hey—something coming up fast! he warned me after fifteen minutes of silence.On my way!Hold your position—I don’t think it’s the pack. It sounds different.Seth—But he caught the approaching scent on the breeze, and I read it in his mind.Vampire. Bet it’s Carlisle.Seth, fall back. It might be someone else.No, it’s them. I recognize the scent. Hold up, I’m going to phase to explain it tothem.Seth, I don’t think—But he was gone.Anxiously, I raced along the western border. Wouldn’t it be just peachy if Icouldn’t take care of Seth for one freaking night? What if something happened tohim on my watch? Leah would shred me into kibble.At least the kid kept it short. It wasn’t two minutes later when I felt him in myhead again.Yep, Carlisle and Esme. Boy, were they surprised to see me! They’re probablyinside by now. Carlisle said thanks.He’s a good guy.
    • 165Yeah. That’s one of the reasons why we’re right about this.Hope so.Why’re you so down, Jake? I’ll bet Sam won’t bring the pack tonight. He’s notgoing to launch a suicide mission.I sighed. It didn’t seem to matter, either way.Oh. This isn’t about Sam so much, is it?I made the turn at the end of my patrol. I caught Seth’s scent where he’d turnedlast. We weren’t leaving any gaps.You think Bella’s going to die anyway, Seth whispered.Yeah, she is.Poor Edward. He must be crazy.Literally.Edward’s name brought other memories boiling to the surface. Seth read them inastonishment.And then he was howling. Oh, man! No way! You did not! That just plain ol’sucks rocks, Jacob! And you know it, too! I can’t believe you said you’d kill him.What is that? You have to tell him no.Shut up, shut up, you idiot! They’re going to think the pack is coming!Oops! He cut off mid-howl.I wheeled and started loping in toward the house. Just keep out of this, Seth.Take the whole circle for now.Seth seethed and I ignored him.False alarm, false alarm, I thought as I ran closer in. Sorry. Seth is young. Heforgets things. No one’s attacking. False alarm.When I got to the meadow, I could see Edward staring out of a dark window. Iran in, wanting to be sure he got the message.There’s nothing out there—you got that?He nodded once.
    • 166This would be a lot easier if the communication wasn’t one way. Then again, Iwas kinda glad I wasn’t in his head.He looked over his shoulder, back into the house, and I saw a shudder runthrough his whole frame. He waved me away without looking in my directionagain and then moved out of my view.What’s going on?Like I was going to get an answer.I sat very still in the meadow and listened. With these ears, I could almost hearSeth’s soft footfalls, miles out into the forest. It was easy to hear every soundinside the dark house.“It was a false alarm,” Edward was explaining in that dead voice, just repeatingwhat I’d told him. “Seth was upset about something else, and he forgot we werelistening for a signal. He’s very young.”“Nice to have toddlers guarding the fort,” a deeper voice grumbled. Emmett, Ithought.“They’ve done us a great service tonight, Emmett,” Carlisle said. “At greatpersonal sacrifice.”“Yeah, I know. I’m just jealous. Wish I was out there.”“Seth doesn’t think Sam will attack now,” Edward said mechanically. “Not with usforewarned, and lacking two members of the pack.”“What does Jacob think?” Carlisle asked.“He’s not as optimistic.”No one spoke. There was a quiet dripping sound that I couldn’t place. I heardtheir low breathing—and I could separate Bella’s from the rest. It was harsher,labored. It hitched and broke in strange rhythms. I could hear her heart. Itseemed… too fast. I paced it against my own heartbeat, but I wasn’t sure if thatwas any measure. It wasn’t like I was normal.“Don’t touch her! You’ll wake her up,” Rosalie whispered.Someone sighed.“Rosalie,” Carlisle murmured.
    • 167“Don’t start with me, Carlisle. We let you have your way earlier, but that’s allwe’re allowing.”It seemed like Rosalie and Bella were both talking in plurals now. Like they’dformed a pack of their own.I paced quietly in front of the house. Each pass brought me a little closer. Thedark windows were like a TV set running in some dull waiting room—it wasimpossible to keep my eyes off them for long.A few more minutes, a few more passes, and my fur was brushing the side of theporch as I paced.I could see up through the windows—see the top of the walls and the ceiling, theunlit chandelier that hung there. I was tall enough that all I would have to do wasstretch my neck a little… and maybe one paw up on the edge of the porch.…I peeked into the big, open front room, expecting to see something very similar tothe scene this afternoon. But it had changed so much that I was confused at first.For a second I thought I’d gotten the wrong room.The glass wall was gone—it looked like metal now. And the furniture was alldragged out of the way, with Bella curled up awkwardly on a narrow bed in thecenter of the open space. Not a normal bed—one with rails like in a hospital. Alsolike a hospital were the monitors strapped to her body, the tubes stuck into herskin. The lights on the monitors flashed, but there was no sound. The drippingnoise was from the IV plugged into her arm—some fluid that was thick and white,not clear.She choked a little in her uneasy sleep, and both Edward and Rosalie moved in tohover over her. Her body jerked, and she whimpered. Rosalie smoothed her handacross Bella’s forehead. Edward’s body stiffened—his back was to me, but hisexpression must have been something to see, because Emmett wrenched himselfbetween them before there was time to blink. He held his hands up to Edward.“Not tonight, Edward. We’ve got other things to worry about.”Edward turned away from them, and he was the burning man again. His eyes metmine for one moment, and then I dropped back to all fours.I ran back into the dark forest, running to join Seth, running away from what wasbehind me.Worse. Yes, she was worse.
    • 168 12. SOME PEOPLE JUST DON’T GRASP THE CONCEPT OF “UNWELCOME”I was right on the edge of sleep.The sun had risen behind the clouds an hour ago—the forest was gray nowinstead of black. Seth’d curled up and passed out around one, and I’d woken himat dawn to trade off. Even after running all night, I was having a hard timemaking my brain shut up long enough to fall asleep, but Seth’s rhythmic run washelping. One, two-three, four, one, two-three, four—dum dum-dum dum—dullpaw thuds against the damp earth, over and over as he made the wide circuitsurrounding the Cullens’ land. We were already wearing a trail into the ground.Seth’s thoughts were empty, just a blur of green and gray as the woods flew pasthim. It was restful. It helped to fill my head with what he saw rather than lettingmy own images take center stage.And then Seth’s piercing howl broke the early morning quiet.I lurched up from the ground, my front legs pulling toward a sprint before myhind legs were off the ground. I raced toward the place where Seth had frozen,listening with him to the tread of paws running in our direction.Morning, boys.A shocked whine broke through Seth’s teeth. And then we both snarled as weread deeper into the new thoughts.Oh, man! Go away, Leah! Seth groaned.I stopped when I got to Seth, head thrown back, ready to howl again—this time tocomplain.Cut the noise, Seth.Right. Ugh! Ugh! Ugh! He whimpered and pawed at the ground, scratching deepfurrows in the dirt.Leah trotted into view, her small gray body weaving through the underbrush.Stop whining, Seth. You’re such a baby.I growled at her, my ears flattening against my skull. She skipped back a stepautomatically.What do you think you’re doing, Leah?
    • 169She huffed a heavy sigh. It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? I’m joining your crappy littlerenegade pack. The vampires’ guard dogs. She barked out a low, sarcastic laugh.No, you’re not. Turn around before I rip out one of your hamstrings.Like you could catch me. She grinned and coiled her body for launch. Wannarace, O fearless leader?I took a deep breath, filling my lungs until my sides bulged. Then, when I wassure I wasn’t going to scream, I exhaled in a gust.Seth, go let the Cullens know that it’s just your stupid sister—I thought the wordsas harshly as possible. I’ll deal with this.On it! Seth was only too happy to leave. He vanished toward the house.Leah whined, and she leaned after him, the fur on her shoulders rising. You’rejust going to let him run off to the vampires alone?I’m pretty sure he’d rather they took him out than spend another minute withyou.Shut up, Jacob. Oops, I’m sorry—I meant, shut up, most high Alpha.Why the hell are you here?You think I’m just going to sit home while my little brother volunteers as avampire chew toy?Seth doesn’t want or need your protection. In fact, no one wants you here.Oooh, ouch, that’s gonna leave a huge mark. Ha, she barked. Tell me who doeswant me around, and I’m outta here.So this isn’t about Seth at all, is it?Of course it is. I’m just pointing out that being unwanted is not a first for me.Not really a motivating factor, if you know what I mean.I gritted my teeth and tried to get my head straight.Did Sam send you?If I was here on Sam’s errand, you wouldn’t be able to hear me. My allegiance isno longer with him.
    • 170I listened carefully to the thoughts mixed in with the words. If this was adiversion or a ploy, I had to be alert enough to see through it. But there wasnothing. Her declaration was nothing but the truth. Unwilling, almost despairingtruth.You’re loyal to me now? I asked with deep sarcasm. Uh-huh. Right.My choices are limited. I’m working with the options I’ve got. Trust me, I’m notenjoying this any more than you are.That wasn’t true. There was an edgy kind of excitement in her mind. She wasunhappy about this, but she was also riding some weird high. I searched hermind, trying to understand.She bristled, resenting the intrusion. I usually tried to tune Leah out—I’d nevertried to make sense of her before.We were interrupted by Seth, thinking his explanation at Edward. Leah whinedanxiously. Edward’s face, framed in the same window as last night, showed noreaction to the news. It was a blank face, dead.Wow, he looks bad, Seth muttered to himself. The vampire showed no reaction tothat thought, either. He disappeared into the house. Seth pivoted and headedback out to us. Leah relaxed a little.What’s going on? Leah asked. Catch me up to speed.There’s no point. You’re not staying.Actually, Mr. Alpha, I am. Because since apparently I have to belong tosomeone—and don’t think I haven’t tried breaking off on my own, you knowyourself how well that doesn’t work—I choose you.Leah, you don’t like me. I don’t like you.Thank you, Captain Obvious. That doesn’t matter to me. I’m staying with Seth.You don’t like vampires. Don’t you think that’s a little conflict of interest rightthere?You don’t like vampires either.But I am committed to this alliance. You aren’t.I’ll keep my distance from them. I can run patrols out here, just like Seth.And I’m supposed to trust you with that?
    • 171She stretched her neck, leaning up on her toes, trying to be as tall as me as shestared into my eyes. I will not betray my pack.I wanted to throw my head back and howl, like Seth had before. This isn’t yourpack! This isn’t even a pack. This is just me, going off on my own! What is it withyou Clearwaters? Why can’t you leave me alone?Seth, just coming up behind us now, whined; I’d offended him. Great.I’ve been helpful, haven’t I, Jake?You haven’t made too much a nuisance of yourself, kid, but if you and Leah area package deal—if the only way to get rid of her is for you to go home.… Well,can you blame me for wanting you gone?Ugh, Leah, you ruin everything!Yeah, I know, she told him, and the thought was loaded with the heaviness of herdespair.I felt the pain in the three little words, and it was more than I would’ve guessed. Ididn’t want to feel that. I didn’t want to feel bad for her. Sure, the pack was roughon her, but she brought it all on herself with the bitterness that tainted her everythought and made being in her head a nightmare.Seth was feeling guilty, too. Jake… You’re not really gonna send me away, areyou? Leah’s not so bad. Really. I mean, with her here, we can push the perimeterout farther. And this puts Sam down to seven. There’s no way he’s going tomount an attack that outnumbered. It’s probably a good thing.…You know I don’t want to lead a pack, Seth.So don’t lead us, Leah offered.I snorted. Sounds perfect to me. Run along home now.Jake, Seth thought. I belong here. I do like vampires. Cullens, anyway. They’repeople to me, and I’m going to protect them, ’cause that’s what we’re supposedto do.Maybe you belong, kid, but your sister doesn’t. And she’s going to go whereveryou are—I stopped short, because I saw something when I said that. Something Leah hadbeen trying not to think.Leah wasn’t going anywhere.
    • 172Thought this was about Seth, I thought sourly.She flinched. Of course I’m here for Seth.And to get away from Sam.Her jaw clenched. I don’t have to explain myself to you. I just have to do whatI’m told. I belong to your pack, Jacob. The end.I paced away from her, growling.Crap. I was never going to get rid of her. As much as she disliked me, as much asshe loathed the Cullens, as happy as she’d be to go kill all the vampires right now,as much as it pissed her off to have to protect them instead—none of that wasanything compared to what she felt being free of Sam.Leah didn’t like me, so it wasn’t such a chore having me wish she woulddisappear.She loved Sam. Still. And having him wish she would disappear was more painthan she was willing to live with, now that she had a choice. She would have takenany other option. Even if it meant moving in with the Cullens as their lapdog.I don’t know if I’d go that far, she thought. She tried to make the words tough,aggressive, but there were big cracks in her show. I’m sure I’d give killing myselfa few good tries first.Look, Leah…No, you look, Jacob. Stop arguing with me, because it’s not going to do anygood. I’ll stay out of your way, okay? I’ll do anything you want. Except go backto Sam’s pack and be the pathetic ex-girlfriend he can’t get away from. If youwant me to leave—she sat back on her haunches and stared straight into myeyes—you’re going to have to make me.I snarled for a long, angry minute. I was beginning to feel some sympathy forSam, despite what he had done to me, to Seth. No wonder he was always orderingthe pack around. How else would you ever get anything done?Seth, are you gonna get mad at me if I kill your sister?He pretended to think about it for a minute. Well… yeah, probably.I sighed.Okay, then, Ms. Do-Anything-I-Want. Why don’t you make yourself useful bytelling us what you know? What happened after we left last night?
    • 173Lots of howling. But you probably heard that part. It was so loud that it took usa while to figure out that we couldn’t hear either of you anymore. Sam was…Words failed her, but we could see it in our head. Both Seth and I cringed. Afterthat, it was clear pretty quick that we were going to have to rethink things. Samwas planning to talk to the other Elders first thing this morning. We weresupposed to meet up and figure out a game plan. I could tell he wasn’t going tomount another attack right away, though. Suicide at this point, with you andSeth AWOL and the bloodsuckers forewarned. I’m not sure what they’ll do, but Iwouldn’t be wandering the forest alone if I was a leech. It’s open season onvamps now.You decided to skip the meeting this morning? I asked.When we split up for patrols last night, I asked permission to go home, to tellmy mother what had happened—Crap! You told Mom? Seth growled.Seth, hold off on the sibling stuff for a sec. Go on, Leah.So once I was human, I took a minute to think things through. Well, actually, Itook all night. I bet the others think I fell asleep. But the whole two-separate-packs, two-separate-pack-minds thing gave me a lot to sift through. In the end,I weighed Seth’s safety and the, er, other benefits against the idea of turningtraitor and sniffing vampire stink for who knows how long. You know what Idecided. I left a note for my mom. I expect we’ll hear it when Sam finds out.…Leah cocked an ear to the west.Yeah, I expect we will, I agreed.So that’s everything. What do we do now? she asked.She and Seth both looked at me expectantly.This was exactly the kind of thing I didn’t want to have to do.I guess we just keep an eye out for now. That’s all we can do. You shouldprobably take a nap, Leah.You’ve had as much sleep as I have.Thought you were going to do what you were told?Right. That’s going to get old, she grumbled, and then she yawned. Well,whatever. I don’t care.
    • 174I’ll run the border, Jake. I’m not tired at all. Seth was so glad I hadn’t forcedthem home, he was all but prancing with excitement.Sure, sure. I’m going to go check in with the Cullens.Seth took off along the new path worn into the damp earth. Leah looked after himthoughtfully.Maybe a round or two before I crash.… Hey Seth, wanna see how many times Ican lap you?NO!Barking out a low chuckle, Leah lunged into the woods after him.I growled uselessly. So much for peace and quiet.Leah was trying—for Leah. She kept her jibes to a minimum as she raced aroundthe circuit, but it was impossible not to be aware of her smug mood. I thought ofthe whole “two’s company” saying. It didn’t really apply, because one was plentyto my mind. But if there had to be three of us, it was hard to think of anyone thatI wouldn’t trade her for.Paul? she suggested.Maybe, I allowed.She laughed to herself, too jittery and hyper to get offended. I wondered how longthe buzz from dodging Sam’s pity would last.That will be my goal, then—to be less annoying than Paul.Yeah, work on that.I changed into my other form when I was a few yards from the lawn. I hadn’tbeen planning to spend much time human here. But I hadn’t been planning tohave Leah in my head, either. I pulled on my ragged shorts and started across thelawn.The door opened before I got to the steps, and I was surprised to see Carlislerather than Edward step outside to meet me—his face looked exhausted anddefeated. For a second, my heart froze. I faltered to a stop, unable to speak.“Are you all right, Jacob?” Carlisle asked.“Is Bella?” I choked out.
    • 175“She’s… much the same as last night. Did I startle you? I’m sorry. Edward saidyou were coming in your human form, and I came out to greet you, as he didn’twant to leave her. She’s awake.”And Edward didn’t want to lose any time with her, because he didn’t have muchtime left. Carlisle didn’t say the words out loud, but he might as well have.It had been a while since I’d slept—since before my last patrol. I could really feelthat now. I took a step forward, sat down on the porch steps, and slumped againstthe railing.Moving whisper-quiet as only a vampire could, Carlisle took a seat on the samestep, against the other railing.“I didn’t get a chance to thank you last night, Jacob. You don’t know how much Iappreciate your… compassion. I know your goal was to protect Bella, but I oweyou the safety of the rest of my family as well. Edward told me what you had todo. . . .”“Don’t mention it,” I muttered.“If you prefer.”We sat in silence. I could hear the others in the house. Emmett, Alice, and Jasper,speaking in low, serious voices upstairs. Esme humming tunelessly in anotherroom. Rosalie and Edward breathing close by—I couldn’t tell which was which,but I could hear the difference in Bella’s labored panting. I could hear her heart,too. It seemed… uneven.It was like fate was out to make me do everything I’d ever sworn I wouldn’t in thecourse of twenty-four hours. Here I was, hanging around, waiting for her to die.I didn’t want to listen anymore. Talking was better than listening.“She’s family to you?” I asked Carlisle. It had caught my notice before, when he’dsaid I’d helped the rest of his family, too.“Yes. Bella is already a daughter to me. A beloved daughter.”“But you’re going to let her die.”He was quiet long enough that I looked up. His face was very, very tired. I knewhow he felt.“I can imagine what you think of me for that,” he finally said. “But I can’t ignoreher will. It wouldn’t be right to make such a choice for her, to force her.”
    • 176I wanted to be angry with him, but he was making it hard. It was like he wasthrowing my own words back at me, just scrambled up. They’d sounded rightbefore, but they couldn’t be right now. Not with Bella dying. Still… I rememberedhow it felt to be broken on the ground under Sam—to have no choice but beinvolved in the murder of someone I loved. It wasn’t the same, though. Sam waswrong. And Bella loved things she shouldn’t.“Do you think there’s any chance she’ll make it? I mean, as a vampire and all that.She told me about… about Esme.”“I’d say there’s an even chance at this point,” he answered quietly. “I’ve seenvampire venom work miracles, but there are conditions that even venom cannotovercome. Her heart is working too hard now; if it should fail… there won’t beanything for me to do.”Bella’s heartbeat throbbed and faltered, giving an agonizing emphasis to hiswords.Maybe the planet had started turning backward. Maybe that would explain howeverything was the opposite of what it had been yesterday—how I could behoping for what had once seemed like the very worst thing in the world.“What is that thing doing to her?” I whispered. “She was so much worse lastnight. I saw… the tubes and all that. Through the window.”“The fetus isn’t compatible with her body. Too strong, for one thing, but she couldprobably endure that for a while. The bigger problem is that it won’t allow her toget the sustenance she needs. Her body is rejecting every form of nutrition. I’mtrying to feed her intravenously, but she’s just not absorbing it. Everything abouther condition is accelerated. I’m watching her—and not just her, but the fetus aswell—starve to death by the hour. I can’t stop it and I can’t slow it down. I can’tfigure out what it wants.” His weary voice broke at the end.I felt the same way I had yesterday, when I’d seen the black stains across herstomach—furious, and a little crazy.I clenched my hands into fists to control the shaking. I hated the thing that washurting her. It wasn’t enough for the monster to beat her from the inside out. No,it was starving her, too. Probably just looking for something to sink its teethinto—a throat to suck dry. Since it wasn’t big enough to kill anyone else yet, itsettled for sucking Bella’s life from her.I could tell them exactly what it wanted: death and blood, blood and death.My skin was all hot and prickly. I breathed slowly in and out, focusing on that tocalm myself.
    • 177“I wish I could get a better idea of what exactly it is,” Carlisle murmured. “Thefetus is well protected. I haven’t been able to produce an ultrasonic image. Idoubt there is any way to get a needle through the amniotic sac, but Rosalie won’tagree to let me try, in any case.”“A needle?” I mumbled. “What good would that do?”“The more I know about the fetus, the better I can estimate what it will be capableof. What I wouldn’t give for even a little amniotic fluid. If I knew even thechromosomal count . . .”“You’re losing me, Doc. Can you dumb it down?”He chuckled once—even his laugh sounded exhausted. “Okay. How much biologyhave you taken? Did you study chromosomal pairs?”“Think so. We have twenty-three, right?”“Humans do.”I blinked. “How many do you have?”“Twenty-five.”I frowned at my fists for a second. “What does that mean?”“I thought it meant that our species were almost completely different. Lessrelated than a lion and a house cat. But this new life—well, it suggests that we’remore genetically compatible than I’d thought.” He sighed sadly. “I didn’t know towarn them.”I sighed, too. It had been easy to hate Edward for the same ignorance. I still hatedhim for it. It was just hard to feel the same way about Carlisle. Maybe because Iwasn’t ten shades of jealous in Carlisle’s case.“It might help to know what the count was—whether the fetus was closer to us orto her. To know what to expect.” Then he shrugged. “And maybe it wouldn’t helpanything. I guess I just wish I had something to study, anything to do.”“Wonder what my chromosomes are like,” I muttered randomly. I thought ofthose Olympic steroids tests again. Did they run DNA scans?Carlisle coughed self-consciously. “You have twenty-four pairs, Jacob.”I turned slowly to stare at him, raising my eyebrows.
    • 178He looked embarrassed. “I was… curious. I took the liberty when I was treatingyou last June.”I thought about it for a second. “I guess that should piss me off. But I don’t reallycare.”“I’m sorry. I should have asked.”“S’okay, Doc. You didn’t mean any harm.”“No, I promise you that I did not mean you any harm. It’s just that… I find yourspecies fascinating. I suppose that the elements of vampiric nature have come toseem commonplace to me over the centuries. Your family’s divergence fromhumanity is much more interesting. Magical, almost.”“Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo,” I mumbled. He was just like Bella with all the magicgarbage.Carlisle laughed another weary laugh.Then we heard Edward’s voice inside the house, and we both paused to listen.“I’ll be right back, Bella. I want to speak with Carlisle for a moment. Actually,Rosalie, would you mind accompanying me?” Edward sounded different. Therewas a little life in his dead voice. A spark of something. Not hope exactly, butmaybe the desire to hope.“What is it, Edward?” Bella asked hoarsely.“Nothing you need to worry about, love. It will just take a second. Please, Rose?”“Esme?” Rosalie called. “Can you mind Bella for me?”I heard the whisper of wind as Esme flitted down the stairs.“Of course,” she said.Carlisle shifted, twisting to look expectantly at the door. Edward was through thedoor first, with Rosalie right on his heels. His face was, like his voice, no longerdead. He seemed intensely focused. Rosalie looked suspicious.Edward shut the door behind her.“Carlisle,” he murmured.“What is it, Edward?”
    • 179“Perhaps we’ve been going about this the wrong way. I was listening to you andJacob just now, and when you were speaking of what the… fetus wants, Jacob hadan interesting thought.”Me? What had I thought? Besides my obvious hatred for the thing? At least Iwasn’t alone in that. I could tell that Edward had a difficult time using a term asmild as fetus.“We haven’t actually addressed that angle,” Edward went on. “We’ve been tryingto get Bella what she needs. And her body is accepting it about as well as one ofours would. Perhaps we should address the needs of the… fetus first. Maybe if wecan satisfy it, we’ll be able to help her more effectively.”“I’m not following you, Edward,” Carlisle said.“Think about it, Carlisle. If that creature is more vampire than human, can’t youguess what it craves—what it’s not getting? Jacob did.”I did? I ran through the conversation, trying to remember what thoughts I’d keptto myself. I remembered at the same time that Carlisle understood.“Oh,” he said in a surprised tone. “You think it is… thirsty?”Rosalie hissed under her breath. She wasn’t suspicious anymore. Her revoltinglyperfect face was all lit up, her eyes wide with excitement. “Of course,” shemuttered. “Carlisle, we have all that type O negative laid aside for Bella. It’s agood idea,” she added, not looking at me.“Hmm.” Carlisle put his hand to his chin, lost in thought. “I wonder… And then,what would be the best way to administer. . . .”Rosalie shook her head. “We don’t have time to be creative. I’d say we shouldstart with the traditional way.”“Wait a minute,” I whispered. “Just hold on. Are you—are you talking aboutmaking Bella drink blood?”“It was your idea, dog,” Rosalie said, scowling at me without ever quite looking atme.I ignored her and watched Carlisle. That same ghost of hope that had been inEdward’s face was now in the doctor’s eyes. He pursed his lips, speculating.“That’s just . . .” I couldn’t find the right word.“Monstrous?” Edward suggested. “Repulsive?”
    • 180“Pretty much.”“But what if it helps her?” he whispered.I shook my head angrily. “What are you gonna do, shove a tube down her throat?”“I plan to ask her what she thinks. I just wanted to run it past Carlisle first.”Rosalie nodded. “If you tell her it might help the baby, she’ll be willing to doanything. Even if we do have to feed them through a tube.”I realized then—when I heard how her voice got all loveydovey as she said theword baby—that Blondie would be in line with anything that helped the littlelife-sucking monster. Was that what was going on, the mystery factor that wasbonding the two of them? Was Rosalie after the kid?From the corner of my eye, I saw Edward nod once, absently, not looking in mydirection. But I knew he was answering my questions.Huh. I wouldn’t have thought the ice-cold Barbie would have a maternal side. Somuch for protecting Bella—Rosalie’d probably jam the tube down Bella’s throatherself.Edward’s mouth mashed into a hard line, and I knew I was right again.“Well, we don’t have time to sit around discussing this,” Rosalie said impatiently.“What do you think, Carlisle? Can we try?”Carlisle took a deep breath, and then he was on his feet. “We’ll ask Bella.”Blondie smiled smugly—sure that, if it was up to Bella, she would get her way.I dragged myself up from the stairs and followed after them as they disappearedinto the house. I wasn’t sure why. Just morbid curiosity, maybe. It was like ahorror movie. Monsters and blood all over the place.Maybe I just couldn’t resist another hit of my dwindling drug supply.Bella lay flat on the hospital bed, her belly a mountain under the sheet. Shelooked like wax—colorless and sort of see-through. You’d think she was alreadydead, except for the tiny movement of her chest, her shallow breathing. And thenher eyes, following the four of us with exhausted suspicion.The others were at her side already, flitting across the room with sudden dartingmotions. It was creepy to watch. I ambled along at a slow walk.
    • 181“What’s going on?” Bella demanded in a scratchy whisper. Her waxy handtwitched up—like she was trying to protect her balloon-shaped stomach.“Jacob had an idea that might help you,” Carlisle said. I wished he would leaveme out of it. I hadn’t suggested anything. Give the credit to her bloodsuckinghusband, where it belonged. “It won’t be… pleasant, but—”“But it will help the baby,” Rosalie interrupted eagerly. “We’ve thought of a betterway to feed him. Maybe.”Bella’s eyelids fluttered. Then she coughed out a weak chuckle. “Not pleasant?”she whispered. “Gosh, that’ll be such a change.” She eyed the tube stuck into herarm and coughed again.Blondie laughed with her.The girl looked like she only had hours left, and she had to be in pain, but she wasmaking jokes. So Bella. Trying to ease the tension, make it better for everyoneelse.Edward stepped around Rosalie, no humor touching his intense expression. I wasglad for that. It helped, just a little bit, that he was suffering worse than me. Hetook her hand, not the one that was still protecting her swollen belly.“Bella, love, we’re going to ask you to do something monstrous,” he said, usingthe same adjectives he’d offered me. “Repulsive.”Well, at least he was giving it to her straight.She took a shallow, fluttery breath. “How bad?”Carlisle answered. “We think the fetus might have an appetite closer to ours thanto yours. We think it’s thirsty.”She blinked. “Oh. Oh.”“Your condition—both of your conditions—are deteriorating rapidly. We don’thave time to waste, to come up with more palatable ways to do this. The fastestway to test the theory—”“I’ve got to drink it,” she whispered. She nodded slightly—barely enough energyfor a little head bob. “I can do that. Practice for the future, right?” Her colorlesslips stretched into a faint grin as she looked at Edward. He didn’t smile back.Rosalie started tapping her toe impatiently. The sound was really irritating. Iwondered what she would do if I threw her through a wall right now.
    • 182“So, who’s going to catch me a grizzly bear?” Bella whispered.Carlisle and Edward exchanged a quick glance. Rosalie stopped tapping.“What?” Bella asked.“It will be a more effective test if we don’t cut corners, Bella,” Carlisle said.“If the fetus is craving blood,” Edward explained, “it’s not craving animal blood.”“It won’t make a difference to you, Bella. Don’t think about it,” Rosalieencouraged.Bella’s eyes widened. “Who?” she breathed, and her gaze flickered to me.“I’m not here as a donor, Bells,” I grumbled. “’Sides, it’s human blood that thing’safter, and I don’t think mine applies—”“We have blood on hand,” Rosalie told her, talking over me before I’d finished,like I wasn’t there. “For you—just in case. Don’t worry about anything at all. It’sgoing to be fine. I have a good feeling about this, Bella. I think the baby will be somuch better.”Bella’s hand ran across her stomach.“Well,” she rasped, barely audible. “I’m starving, so I’ll bet he is, too.” Trying tomake another joke. “Let’s go for it. My first vampire act.”
    • 183 13. GOOD THING I’VE GOT A STRONG STOMACHCarlisle and Rosalie were off in a flash, darting upstairs. I could hear themdebating whether they should warm it up for her. Ugh. I wondered what allhouse-of-horrors stuff they kept around here. Fridge full of blood, check. Whatelse? Torture chamber? Coffin room?Edward stayed, holding Bella’s hand. His face was dead again. He didn’t seem tohave the energy to keep up even that little hint of hope he’d had before. Theystared into each other’s eyes, but not in a gooey way. It was like they were havinga conversation. Kind of reminded me of Sam and Emily.No, it wasn’t gooey, but that only made it harder to watch.I knew what it was like for Leah, having to see that all the time. Having to hear itin Sam’s head. Of course we all felt bad for her, we weren’t monsters—in thatsense, anyway. But I guess we’d blamed her for how she handled it. Lashing outat everyone, trying to make us all as miserable as she was.I would never blame her again. How could anyone help spreading this kind ofmisery around? How could anyone not try to ease some of the burden by shovinga little piece of it off on someone else?And if it meant that I had to have a pack, how could I blame her for taking myfreedom? I would do the same. If there was a way to escape this pain, I’d take it,too.Rosalie darted downstairs after a second, flying through the room like a sharpbreeze, stirring up the burning smell. She stopped inside the kitchen, and I heardthe creak of a cupboard door.“Not clear, Rosalie,” Edward murmured. He rolled his eyes.Bella looked curious, but Edward just shook his head at her.Rosalie blew back through the room and disappeared again.“This was your idea?” Bella whispered, her voice rough as she strained to make itloud enough for me to hear. Forgetting that I could hear just fine. I kind of likedhow, a lot of the time, she seemed to forget that I wasn’t completely human. Imoved closer, so that she wouldn’t have to work so hard.“Don’t blame me for this one. Your vampire was just picking snide comments outof my head.”She smiled a little. “I didn’t expect to see you again.”
    • 184“Yeah, me, either,” I said.It felt weird just standing here, but the vampires had shoved all the furniture outof the way for the medical setup. I imagined that it didn’t bother them—sitting orstanding didn’t make much difference when you were stone. Wouldn’t bother memuch, either, except that I was so exhausted.“Edward told me what you had to do. I’m sorry.”“S’okay. It was probably only a matter of time till I snapped over something Samwanted me to do,” I lied.“And Seth,” she whispered.“He’s actually happy to help.”“I hate causing you trouble.”I laughed once—more a bark than a laugh.She breathed a faint sigh. “I guess that’s nothing new, is it?”“No, not really.”“You don’t have to stay and watch this,” she said, barely mouthing the words.I could leave. It was probably a good idea. But if I did, with the way she lookedright now, I could be missing the last fifteen minutes of her life.“I don’t really have anywhere else to go,” I told her, trying to keep the emotionout of my voice. “The wolf thing is a lot less appealing since Leah joined up.”“Leah?” she gasped.“You didn’t tell her?” I asked Edward.He just shrugged without moving his eyes from her face. I could see it wasn’t veryexciting news to him, not something worth sharing with the more importantevents that were going down.Bella didn’t take it so lightly. It looked like it was bad news to her.“Why?” she breathed.I didn’t want to get into the whole novel-length version. “To keep an eye on Seth.”“But Leah hates us,” she whispered.
    • 185Us. Nice. I could see that she was afraid, though.“Leah’s not going to bug anyone.” But me. “She’s in my pack”—I grimaced at thewords—“so she follows my lead.” Ugh.Bella didn’t look convinced.“You’re scared of Leah, but you’re best buds with the psychopath blonde?”There was a low hiss from the second floor. Cool, she’d heard me.Bella frowned at me. “Don’t. Rose… understands.”“Yeah,” I grunted. “She understands that you’re gonna die and she doesn’t care,s’long as she gets her mutant spawn out of the deal.”“Stop being a jerk, Jacob,” she whispered.She looked too weak to get mad at. I tried to smile instead. “You say that like it’spossible.”Bella tried not to smile back for a second, but she couldn’t help it in the end; herchalky lips pulled up at the corners.And then Carlisle and the psycho in question were there. Carlisle had a whiteplastic cup in his hand—the kind with a lid and a bendy straw. Oh—not clear;now I got it. Edward didn’t want Bella to have to think about what she was doingany more than necessary. You couldn’t see what was in the cup at all. But I couldsmell it.Carlisle hesitated, the hand with the cup half-extended. Bella eyed it, lookingscared again.“We could try another method,” Carlisle said quietly.“No,” Bella whispered. “No, I’ll try this first. We don’t have time. . . .”At first I thought she’d finally gotten a clue and was worried about herself, butthen her hand fluttered feebly against her stomach.Bella reached out and took the cup from him. Her hand shook a little, and I couldhear the sloshing from inside. She tried to prop herself up on one elbow, but shecould barely lift her head. A whisper of heat brushed down my spine as I saw howfrail she’d gotten in less than a day.Rosalie put her arm under Bella’s shoulders, supporting her head, too, like youdid with a newborn. Blondie was all about the babies.
    • 186“Thanks,” Bella whispered. Her eyes flickered around at us. Still aware enough tofeel self-conscious. If she wasn’t so drained, I’d bet she’d’ve blushed.“Don’t mind them,” Rosalie murmured.It made me feel awkward. I should’ve left when Bella’d offered the chance. Ididn’t belong here, being part of this. I thought about ducking out, but then Irealized a move like that would only make this worse for Bella—make it harderfor her to go through with it. She’d figure I was too disgusted to stay. Which wasalmost true.Still. While I wasn’t going to claim responsibility for this idea, I didn’t want tojinx it, either.Bella lifted the cup to her face and sniffed at the end of the straw. She flinched,and then made a face.“Bella, sweetheart, we can find an easier way,” Edward said, holding his hand outfor the cup.“Plug your nose,” Rosalie suggested. She glared at Edward’s hand like she mighttake a snap at it. I wished she would. I bet Edward wouldn’t take that sittingdown, and I’d love to see Blondie lose a limb.“No, that’s not it. It’s just that it—” Bella sucked in a deep breath. “It smellsgood,” she admitted in a tiny voice.I swallowed hard, fighting to keep the disgust off my face.“That’s a good thing,” Rosalie told Bella eagerly. “That means we’re on the righttrack. Give it a try.” Given Blondie’s new expression, I was surprised she didn’tbreak into a touchdown dance.Bella shoved the straw between her lips, squeezed her eyes shut, and wrinkled hernose. I could hear the blood slopping around in the cup again as her hand shook.She sipped at it for a second, and then moaned quietly with her eyes still closed.Edward and I stepped forward at the same time. He touched her face. I clenchedmy hands behind my back.“Bella, love—”“I’m okay,” she whispered. She opened her eyes and stared up at him. Herexpression was… apologetic. Pleading. Scared. “It tastes good, too.”Acid churned in my stomach, threatening to overflow. I ground my teethtogether.
    • 187“That’s good,” Blondie repeated, still jazzed. “A good sign.”Edward just pressed his hand to her cheek, curling his fingers around the shapeof her fragile bones.Bella sighed and put her lips to the straw again. She took a real pull this time. Theaction wasn’t as weak as everything else about her. Like some instinct was takingover.“How’s your stomach? Do you feel nauseated?” Carlisle asked.Bella shook her head. “No, I don’t feel sick,” she whispered. “There’s a first, eh?”Rosalie beamed. “Excellent.”“I think it’s a bit early for that, Rose,” Carlisle murmured.Bella gulped another mouthful of blood. Then she flashed a look at Edward.“Does this screw my total?” she whispered. “Or do we start counting after I’m avampire?”“No one is counting, Bella. In any case, no one died for this.” He smiled a lifelesssmile. “Your record is still clean.”They’d lost me.“I’ll explain later,” Edward said, so low the words were just a breath.“What?” Bella whispered.“Just talking to myself,” he lied smoothly.If he succeeded with this, if Bella lived, Edward wasn’t going to be able to getaway with so much when her senses were as sharp as his. He’d have to work onthe honesty thing.Edward’s lips twitched, fighting a smile.Bella chugged a few more ounces, staring past us toward the window. Probablypretending we weren’t here. Or maybe just me. No one else in this group wouldbe disgusted by what she was doing. Just the opposite—they were probablyhaving a tough time not ripping the cup away from her.Edward rolled his eyes.
    • 188Jeez, how did anyone stand living with him? It was really too bad he couldn’t hearBella’s thoughts. Then he’d annoy the crap out of her, too, and she’d get tired ofhim.Edward chuckled once. Bella’s eyes flicked to him immediately, and she half-smiled at the humor in his face. I would guess that wasn’t something she’d seenin a while.“Something funny?” she breathed.“Jacob,” he answered.She looked over with another weary smile for me. “Jake’s a crack-up,” she agreed.Great, now I was the court jester. “Bada bing,” I mumbled in weak rim-shotimpression.She smiled again, and then took another swig from the cup. I flinched when thestraw pulled at empty air, making a loud sucking sound.“I did it,” she said, sounding pleased. Her voice was clearer—rough, but not awhisper for the first time today. “If I keep this down, Carlisle, will you take theneedles out of me?”“As soon as possible,” he promised. “Honestly, they aren’t doing that much goodwhere they are.”Rosalie patted Bella’s forehead, and they exchanged a hopeful glance.And anyone could see it—the cup full of human blood had made an immediatedifference. Her color was returning—there was a tiny hint of pink in her waxycheeks. Already she didn’t seem to need Rosalie’s support so much anymore. Herbreathing was easier, and I would swear her heartbeat was stronger, more even.Everything accelerated.That ghost of hope in Edward’s eyes had turned into the real thing.“Would you like more?” Rosalie pressed.Bella’s shoulders slumped.Edward flashed a glare at Rosalie before he spoke to Bella. “You don’t have todrink more right away.”“Yeah, I know. But… I want to,” she admitted glumly.
    • 189Rosalie pulled her thin, sharp fingers through Bella’s lank hair. “You don’t needto be embarrassed about that, Bella. Your body has cravings. We all understandthat.” Her tone was soothing at first, but then she added harshly, “Anyone whodoesn’t understand shouldn’t be here.”Meant for me, obviously, but I wasn’t going to let Blondie get to me. I was gladBella felt better. So what if the means grossed me out? It wasn’t like I’d saidanything.Carlisle took the cup from Bella’s hand. “I’ll be right back.”Bella stared at me while he disappeared.“Jake, you look awful,” she croaked.“Look who’s talking.”“Seriously—when’s the last time you slept?”I thought about that for a second. “Huh. I’m not actually sure.”“Aw, Jake. Now I’m messing with your health, too. Don’t be stupid.”I gritted my teeth. She was allowed to kill herself for a monster, but I wasn’tallowed to miss a few nights’ sleep to watch her do it?“Get some rest, please,” she went on. “There’re a few beds upstairs—you’rewelcome to any of them.”The look on Rosalie’s face made it clear that I wasn’t welcome to one of them. Itmade me wonder what Sleepless Beauty needed a bed for anyway. Was she thatpossessive of her props?“Thanks, Bells, but I’d rather sleep on the ground. Away from the stench, youknow.”She grimaced. “Right.”Carlisle was back then, and Bella reached out for the blood, absentminded, likeshe was thinking of something else. With the same distracted expression, shestarted sucking it down.She really was looking better. She pulled herself forward, being careful of thetubes, and scooted into a sitting position. Rosalie hovered, her hands ready tocatch Bella if she sagged. But Bella didn’t need her. Taking deep breaths inbetween swallows, Bella finished the second cup quickly.
    • 190“How do you feel now?” Carlisle asked.“Not sick. Sort of hungry… only I’m not sure if I’m hungry or thirsty, you know?”“Carlisle, just look at her,” Rosalie murmured, so smug she should have canaryfeathers on her lips. “This is obviously what her body wants. She should drinkmore.”“She’s still human, Rosalie. She needs food, too. Let’s give her a little while to seehow this affects her, and then maybe we can try some food again. Does anythingsound particularly good to you, Bella?”“Eggs,” she said immediately, and then she exchanged a look and a smile withEdward. His smile was brittle, but there was more life on his face than before.I blinked then, and almost forgot how to open my eyes again.“Jacob,” Edward murmured. “You really should sleep. As Bella said, you’recertainly welcome to the accommodations here, though you’d probably be morecomfortable outside. Don’t worry about anything—I promise I’ll find you if there’sa need.”“Sure, sure,” I mumbled. Now that it appeared Bella had a few more hours, Icould escape. Go curl up under a tree somewhere.… Far enough away that thesmell couldn’t reach me. The bloodsucker would wake me up if something wentwrong. He owed me.“I do,” Edward agreed.I nodded and then put my hand on Bella’s. Hers was icy cold.“Feel better,” I said.“Thanks, Jacob.” She turned her hand over and squeezed mine. I felt the thinband of her wedding ring riding loose on her skinny finger.“Get her a blanket or something,” I muttered as I turned for the door.Before I made it, two howls pierced the still morning air. There was no mistakingthe urgency of the tone. No misunderstanding this time.“Dammit,” I snarled, and I threw myself through the door. I hurled my body offthe porch, letting the fire rip me apart midair. There was a sharp tearing sound asmy shorts shredded. Crap. Those were the only clothes I had. Didn’t matter now.I landed on paws and took off toward the west.What is it? I shouted in my head.
    • 191Incoming, Seth answered. At least three.Did they split up?I’m running the line back to Seth at the speed of light, Leah promised. I couldfeel the air huffing through her lungs as she pushed herself to an incrediblevelocity. The forest whipped around her. So far, no other point of attack.Seth, do not challenge them. Wait for me.They’re slowing. Ugh—it’s so off not being able to hear them. I think…What?I think they’ve stopped.Waiting for the rest of the pack?Shh. Feel that?I absorbed his impressions. The faint, soundless shimmer in the air.Someone’s phasing?Feels like it, Seth agreed.Leah flew into the small open space where Seth waited. She raked her claws intothe dirt, spinning out like a race car.Got your back, bro.They’re coming, Seth said nervously. Slow. Walking.Almost there, I told them. I tried to fly like Leah. It felt horrible being separatedfrom Seth and Leah with potential danger closer to their end than mine. Wrong. Ishould be with them, between them and whatever was coming.Look who’s getting all paternal, Leah thought wryly.Head in the game, Leah.Four, Seth decided. Kid had good ears. Three wolves, one man.I made the little clearing then, moving immediately to the point. Seth sighed withrelief and then straightened up, already in place at my right shoulder. Leah fell inon my left with a little less enthusiasm.
    • 192So now I rank under Seth, she grumbled to herself.First come, first served, Seth thought smugly. ’Sides, you were never an Alpha’sThird before. Still an upgrade.Under my baby brother is not an upgrade.Shh! I complained. I don’t care where you stand. Shut up and get ready.They came into view a few seconds later, walking, as Seth had thought. Jared inthe front, human, hands up. Paul and Quil and Collin on four legs behind him.There was no aggression in their postures. They hung back behind Jared, ears up,alert but calm.But… it was weird that Sam would send Collin rather than Embry. That wasn’twhat I would do if I were sending a diplomacy party into enemy territory. Iwouldn’t send a kid. I’d send the experienced fighter.A diversion? Leah thought.Were Sam, Embry, and Brady making a move alone? That didn’t seem likely.Want me to check? I can run the line and be back in two minutes.Should I warn the Cullens? Seth wondered.What if the point was to divide us? I asked. The Cullens know something’s up.They’re ready.Sam wouldn’t be so stupid…, Leah whispered, fear jagged in her mind. She wasimagining Sam attacking the Cullens with only the two others beside him.No, he wouldn’t, I assured her, though I felt a little sick at the image in her head,too.All the while, Jared and the three wolves stared at us, waiting. It was eerie not tohear what Quil and Paul and Collin were saying to one another. Their expressionswere blank—unreadable.Jared cleared his throat, and then he nodded to me. “White flag of truce, Jake.We’re here to talk.”Think it’s true? Seth asked.Makes sense, but…Yeah, Leah agreed. But.
    • 193We didn’t relax.Jared frowned. “It would be easier to talk if I could hear you, too.”I stared him down. I wasn’t going to phase back until I felt better about thissituation. Until it made sense. Why Collin? That was the part that had me mostworried.“Okay. I guess I’ll just talk, then,” Jared said. “Jake, we want you to come back.”Quil let out a soft whine behind him. Seconding the statement.“You’ve torn our family apart. It’s not meant to be this way.”I wasn’t exactly in disagreement with that, but it was hardly the point. There werea few unresolved differences of opinion between me and Sam at the moment.“We know that you feel… strongly about the situation with the Cullens. We knowthat’s a problem. But this is an overreaction.”Seth growled. Overreaction? And attacking our allies without warning isn’t?Seth, you ever heard of a poker face? Cool it.Sorry.Jared’s eyes flickered to Seth and back to me. “Sam is willing to take this slowly,Jacob. He’s calmed down, talked to the other Elders. They’ve decided thatimmediate action is in no one’s best interest at this point.”Translation: They’ve already lost the element of surprise, Leah thought.It was weird how distinct our joint thinking was. The pack was already Sam’spack, was already “them” to us. Something outside and other. It was especiallyweird to have Leah thinking that way—to have her be a solid part of the “us.”“Billy and Sue agree with you, Jacob, that we can wait for Bella… to be separatedfrom the problem. Killing her is not something any of us feel comfortable with.”Though I’d just given Seth crap for it, I couldn’t hold back a small snarl of myown. So they didn’t quite feel comfortable with murder, huh?Jared raised his hands again. “Easy, Jake. You know what I mean. The point is,we’re going to wait and reassess the situation. Decide later if there’s a problemwith the… thing.”Ha, Leah thought. What a load.
    • 194You don’t buy it?I know what they’re thinking, Jake. What Sam’s thinking. They’re betting onBella dying anyway. And then they figure you’ll be so mad…That I’ll lead the attack myself. My ears pressed against my skull. What Leah wasguessing sounded pretty spot-on. And very possible, too. When… if that thingkilled Bella, it was going to be easy to forget how I felt about Carlisle’s familyright now. They would probably look like enemies—like no more thanbloodsucking leeches—to me all over again.I’ll remind you, Seth whispered.I know you will, kid. Question is whether I’ll listen to you.“Jake?” Jared asked.I huffed a sigh.Leah, make a circuit—just to be sure. I’m going to have to talk to him, and Iwant to be positive there isn’t anything else going on while I’m phased.Give me a break, Jacob. You can phase in front of me. Despite my best efforts,I’ve seen you naked before—doesn’t do much for me, so no worries.I’m not trying to protect the innocence of your eyes, I’m trying to protect ourbacks. Get out of here.Leah snorted once and then launched herself into the forest. I could hear herclaws cutting into the soil, pushing her faster.Nudity was an inconvenient but unavoidable part of pack life. We’d all thoughtnothing of it before Leah came along. Then it got awkward. Leah had averagecontrol when it came to her temper—it took her the usual length of time to stopexploding out of her clothes every time she got pissed. We’d all caught a glimpse.And it wasn’t like she wasn’t worth looking at; it was just that it was so not worthit when she caught you thinking about it later.Jared and the others were staring at the place where she’d disappeared into thebrush with wary expressions.“Where’s she going?” Jared asked.I ignored him, closing my eyes and pulling myself together again. It felt like theair was trembling around me, shaking out from me in small waves. I lifted myselfup on my hind legs, catching the moment just right so that I was fully upright as Ishimmered down into my human self.
    • 195“Oh,” Jared said. “Hey, Jake.”“Hey, Jared.”“Thanks for talking to me.”“Yeah.”“We want you to come back, man.”Quil whined again.“I don’t know if it’s that easy, Jared.”“Come home,” he said, leaning forward. Pleading. “We can sort this out. Youdon’t belong here. Let Seth and Leah come home, too.”I laughed. “Right. Like I haven’t been begging them to do that from hour one.”Seth snorted behind me.Jared assessed that, his eyes cautious again. “So, what now, then?”I thought that over for a minute while he waited.“I don’t know. But I’m not sure things could just go back to normal anyway,Jared. I don’t know how it works—it doesn’t feel like I can just turn this Alphathing off and on as the mood strikes. It feels sort of permanent.”“You still belong with us.”I raised my eyebrows. “Two Alphas can’t belong in the same place, Jared.Remember how close it got last night? The instinct is too competitive.”“So are you all just going to hang out with the parasites for the rest of your lives?”he demanded. “You don’t have a home here. You’re already out of clothes,” hepointed out. “You gonna stay wolf all the time? You know Leah doesn’t like eatingthat way.”“Leah can do whatever she wants when she gets hungry. She’s here by her ownchoice. I’m not telling anyone what to do.”Jared sighed. “Sam is sorry about what he did to you.”I nodded. “I’m not angry anymore.”“But?”
    • 196“But I’m not coming back, not now. We’re going to wait and see how it plays out,too. And we’re going to watch out for the Cullens for as long as that seemsnecessary. Because, despite what you think, this isn’t just about Bella. We’reprotecting those who should be protected. And that applies to the Cullens, too.”At least a fair number of them, anyway.Seth yelped softly in agreement.Jared frowned. “I guess there’s nothing I can say to you, then.”“Not now. We’ll see how things go.”Jared turned to face Seth, concentrating on him now, separate from me. “Sueasked me to tell you—no, to beg you—to come home. She’s brokenhearted, Seth.All alone. I don’t know how you and Leah can do this to her. Abandon her thisway, when your dad just barely died—”Seth whimpered.“Ease up, Jared,” I warned.“Just letting him know how it is.”I snorted. “Right.” Sue was tougher than anyone I knew. Tougher than my dad,tougher than me. Tough enough to play on her kids’ sympathies if that’s what ittook to get them home. But it wasn’t fair to work Seth that way. “Sue’s knownabout this for how many hours now? And most of that time spent with Billy andOld Quil and Sam? Yeah, I’m sure she’s just perishing of loneliness. ’Courseyou’re free to go if you want, Seth. You know that.”Seth sniffed.Then, a second later, he cocked an ear to the north. Leah must be close. Jeez, shewas fast. Two beats, and Leah skidded to a stop in the brush a few yards away.She trotted in, taking the point in front of Seth. She kept her nose in the air, veryobviously not looking in my direction.I appreciated that.“Leah?” Jared asked.She met his gaze, her muzzle pulling back a little over her teeth.Jared didn’t seem surprised by her hostility. “Leah, you know you don’t want tobe here.”
    • 197She snarled at him. I gave her a warning glance she didn’t see. Seth whined andnudged her with his shoulder.“Sorry,” Jared said. “Guess I shouldn’t assume. But you don’t have any ties to thebloodsuckers.”Leah very deliberately looked at her brother and then at me.“So you want to watch out for Seth, I get that,” Jared said. His eyes touched myface and then went back to hers. Probably wondering about that second look—just like I was. “But Jake’s not going to let anything happen to him, and he’s notafraid to be here.” Jared made a face. “Anyway, please, Leah. We want you back.Sam wants you back.”Leah’s tail twitched.“Sam told me to beg. He told me to literally get down on my knees if I have to. Hewants you home, Lee-lee, where you belong.”I saw Leah flinch when Jared used Sam’s old nickname for her. And then, whenhe added those last three words, her hackles rose and she was yowling a longstream of snarls through her teeth. I didn’t have to be in her head to hear thecussing-out she was giving him, and neither did he. You could almost hear theexact words she was using.I waited till she was done. “I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Leahbelongs wherever she wants to be.”Leah growled, but, as she was glaring at Jared, I figured it was in agreement.“Look, Jared, we’re still family, okay? We’ll get past the feud, but, until we do, youprobably ought to stick to your land. Just so there aren’t misunderstandings.Nobody wants a family brawl, right? Sam doesn’t want that, either, does he?”“Of course, not,” Jared snapped. “We’ll stick to our land. But where is your land,Jacob? Is it vampire land?”“No, Jared. Homeless at the moment. But don’t worry—this isn’t going to lastforever.” I had to take a breath. “There’s not that much time… left. Okay? Thenthe Cullens will probably go, and Seth and Leah will come home.”Leah and Seth whined together, their noses turning my direction insynchronization.“And what about you, Jake?”
    • 198“Back to the forest, I think. I can’t really stick around La Push. Two Alphas meanstoo much tension. ’Sides, I was headed that way anyway. Before this mess.”“What if we need to talk?” Jared asked.“Howl—but watch the line, ’kay? We’ll come to you. And Sam doesn’t need tosend so many. We aren’t looking for a fight.”Jared scowled, but nodded. He didn’t like me setting conditions for Sam. “Seeyou around, Jake. Or not.” He waved halfheartedly.“Wait, Jared. Is Embry okay?”Surprise crossed his face. “Embry? Sure, he’s fine. Why?”“Just wondering why Sam sent Collin.”I watched his reaction, still suspicious that something was going on. I sawknowledge flash in his eyes, but it didn’t look like the kind I was expecting.“That’s not really your business anymore, Jake.”“Guess not. Just curious.”I saw a twitch from the corner of my eye, but I didn’t acknowledge it, because Ididn’t want to give Quil away. He was reacting to the subject.“I’ll let Sam know about your… instructions. Goodbye, Jacob.”I sighed. “Yeah. Bye, Jared. Hey, tell my dad that I’m okay, will you? And that I’msorry, and that I love him.”“I’ll pass that along.”“Thanks.”“C’mon, guys,” Jared said. He turned away from us, heading out of sight to phasebecause Leah was here. Paul and Collin were right on his heels, but Quilhesitated. He yelped softly, and I took a step toward him.“Yeah, I miss you, too, bro.”Quil jogged over to me, his head hanging down morosely. I patted his shoulder.“It’ll be okay.”He whined.
    • 199“Tell Embry I miss having you two on my flanks.”He nodded and then pressed his nose to my forehead. Leah snorted. Quil lookedup, but not at her. He looked back over his shoulder at where the others hadgone.“Yeah, go home,” I told him.Quil yelped again and then took off after the others. I’d bet Jared wasn’t waitingsuper-patiently. As soon as he was gone, I pulled the warmth from the center ofmy body and let it surge through my limbs. In a flash of heat, I was on four legsagain.Thought you were going to make out with him, Leah snickered.I ignored her.Was that okay? I asked them. It worried me, speaking for them that way, when Icouldn’t hear exactly what they were thinking. I didn’t want to assume anything. Ididn’t want to be like Jared that way. Did I say anything you didn’t want me to?Did I not say something I should have?You did great, Jake! Seth encouraged.You could have hit Jared, Leah thought. I wouldn’t have minded that.I guess we know why Embry wasn’t allowed to come, Seth thought.I didn’t understand. Not allowed?Jake, didya see Quil? He’s pretty torn up, right? I’d put ten to one that Embry’seven more upset. And Embry doesn’t have a Claire. There’s no way Quil can justpick up and walk away from La Push. Embry might. So Sam’s not going to takeany chances on him getting convinced to jump ship. He doesn’t want our packany bigger than it is now.Really? You think? I doubt Embry would mind shredding some Cullens.But he’s your best friend, Jake. He and Quil would rather stand behind you thanface you in a fight.Well, I’m glad Sam kept him home, then. This pack is big enough. I sighed. Okay,then. So we’re good, for now. Seth, you mind keeping an eye on things for awhile? Leah and I both need to crash. This felt on the level, but who knows?Maybe it was a distraction.
    • 200I wasn’t always so paranoid, but I remembered the feel of Sam’s commitment.The total one-track focus on destroying the danger he saw. Would he takeadvantage of the fact that he could lie to us now?No problem! Seth was only too eager to do whatever he could. You want me toexplain to the Cullens? They’re probably still kinda tense.I got it. I want to check things out anyway.They caught the whir of images from my fried brain.Seth whimpered in surprise. Ew.Leah whipped her head back and forth like she was trying to shake the image outof her mind. That is easily the freakin’ grossest thing I’ve heard in my life. Yuck.If there was anything in my stomach, it would be coming back.They are vampires, I guess, Seth allowed after a minute, compensating for Leah’sreaction. I mean, it makes sense. And if it helps Bella, it’s a good thing, right?Both Leah and I stared at him.What?Mom dropped him a lot when he was a baby, Leah told me.On his head, apparently.He used to gnaw on the crib bars, too.Lead paint?Looks like it, she thought.Seth snorted. Funny. Why don’t you two shut up and sleep?
    • 201 14. YOU KNOW THINGS ARE BAD WHEN YOU FEEL GUILTY FOR BEING RUDE TO VAMPIRESWhen I got back to the house, there was no one waiting outside for my report.Still on alert?Everything’s cool, I thought tiredly.My eyes quickly caught a small change in the now-familiar scene. There was astack of light-colored fabric on the bottom step of the porch. I loped over toinvestigate. Holding my breath, because the vampire smell stuck to the fabric likeyou wouldn’t believe, I nudged the stack with my nose.Someone had laid out clothes. Huh. Edward must have caught my moment ofirritation as I’d bolted out the door. Well. That was… nice. And weird.I took the clothes gingerly between my teeth—ugh—and carried them back to thetrees. Just in case this was some joke by the blond psychopath and I had a bunchof girls’ stuff here. Bet she’d love to see the look on my human face as I stoodthere naked, holding a sundress.In the cover of the trees, I dropped the stinking pile and shifted back to human. Ishook the clothes out, snapping them against a tree to beat some of the smellfrom them. They were definitely guy’s clothes—tan pants and a white button-down shirt. Neither of them long enough, but they looked like they’d fit aroundme. Must be Emmett’s. I rolled the cuffs up on the shirtsleeves, but there wasn’tmuch I could do about the pants. Oh well.I had to admit, I felt better with some clothes to my name, even stinky ones thatdidn’t quite fit. It was hard not being able to just jet back home and grab anotherpair of old sweatpants when I needed them. The homeless thing again—nothaving anyplace to go back to. No possessions, either, which wasn’t bothering metoo bad now, but would probably get annoying soon.Exhausted, I walked slowly up the Cullens’ porch steps in my fancy newsecondhand clothes but hesitated when I got to the door. Did I knock? Stupid,when they knew I was here. I wondered why no one acknowledged that—told meeither to come in or get lost. Whatever. I shrugged and let myself in.More changes. The room had shifted back to normal—almost—in the last twentyminutes. The big flat-screen was on, low volume, showing some chick flick thatno one seemed to be watching. Carlisle and Esme stood by the back windows,which were open to the river again. Alice, Jasper, and Emmett were out of sight,but I heard them murmuring upstairs. Bella was on the couch like yesterday, withjust one tube still hooked into her, and an IV hanging behind the back of the sofa.She was wrapped up like a burrito in a couple of thick quilts, so at least they’d
    • 202listened to me before. Rosalie was cross-legged on the ground by her head.Edward sat at the other end of the couch with Bella’s burrito’ed feet in his lap. Helooked up when I came in and smiled at me—just a little twitch of his mouth—likesomething pleased him.Bella didn’t hear me. She only glanced up when he did, and then she smiled, too.With real energy, her whole face lighting up. I couldn’t remember the last timeshe’d looked so excited to see me.What was with her? For crying out loud, she was married! Happily married,too—there was no question that she was in love with her vampire past theboundaries of sanity. And hugely pregnant, to top it off.So why did she have to be so damn thrilled to see me? Like I’d made her wholefreakin’ day by walking through the door.If she would just not care… Or more than that—really not want me around. Itwould be so much easier to stay away.Edward seemed to be in agreement with my thoughts—we were on the samewavelength so much lately it was crazy. He was frowning now, reading her facewhile she beamed at me.“They just wanted to talk,” I mumbled, my voice dragging with exhaustion. “Noattack on the horizon.”“Yes,” Edward answered. “I heard most of it.”That woke me up a little. We’d been a good three miles out. “How?”“I’m hearing you more clearly—it’s a matter of familiarity and concentration.Also, your thoughts are slightly easier to pick up when you’re in your humanform. So I caught most of what passed out there.”“Oh.” It bugged me a little, but for no good reason, so I shrugged it off. “Good. Ihate repeating myself.”“I’d tell you to go get some sleep,” Bella said, “but my guess is that you’re going topass out on the floor in about six seconds, so there’s probably no point.”It was amazing how much better she sounded, how much stronger she looked. Ismelled fresh blood and saw that the cup was in her hands again. How muchblood would it take to keep her going? At some point, would they start trotting inthe neighbors?I headed for the door, counting off the seconds for her as I walked. “OneMississippi… two Mississippi . . .”
    • 203“Where’s the flood, mutt?” Rosalie muttered.“You know how you drown a blonde, Rosalie?” I asked without stopping orturning to look at her. “Glue a mirror to the bottom of a pool.”I heard Edward chuckle as I pulled the door shut. His mood seemed to improvein exact correlation to Bella’s health.“I’ve already heard that one,” Rosalie called after me.I trudged down the steps, my only goal to drag myself far enough into the treesthat the air would be pure again. I planned to ditch the clothes a convenientdistance from the house for future use rather than tying them to my leg, so Iwouldn’t be smelling them, either. As I fumbled with the buttons on the newshirt, I thought randomly about how buttons would never be in style forwerewolves.I heard the voices while I slogged across the lawn.“Where are you going?” Bella asked.“There was something I forgot to say to him.”“Let Jacob sleep—it can wait.”Yes, please, let Jacob sleep.“It will only take a moment.”I turned slowly. Edward was already out the door. He had an apology in hisexpression as he approached me.“Jeez, what now?”“I’m sorry,” he said, and then he hesitated, like he didn’t know how to phrasewhat he was thinking.What’s on your mind, mind reader?“When you were speaking to Sam’s delegates earlier,” he murmured, “I wasgiving a play-by-play for Carlisle and Esme and the rest. They were concerned—”“Look, we’re not dropping our guard. You don’t have to believe Sam like we do.We’re keeping our eyes open regardless.”
    • 204“No, no, Jacob. Not about that. We trust your judgment. Rather, Esme wastroubled by the hardships this is putting your pack through. She asked me tospeak to you privately about it.”That took me off guard. “Hardships?”“The homeless part, particularly. She’s very upset that you are all so… bereft.”I snorted. Vampire mother hen—bizarre. “We’re tough. Tell her not to worry.”“She’d still like to do what she can. I got the impression that Leah prefers not toeat in her wolf form?”“And?” I demanded.“Well, we do have normal human food here, Jacob. Keeping up appearances, and,of course, for Bella. Leah is welcome to anything she’d like. All of you are.”“I’ll pass that along.”“Leah hates us.”“So?”“So try to pass it along in such a way as to make her consider it, if you don’tmind.”“I’ll do what I can.”“And then there’s the matter of clothes.”I glanced down at the ones I was wearing. “Oh yeah. Thanks.” It probablywouldn’t be good manners to mention how bad they reeked.He smiled, just a little. “Well, we’re easily able to help out with any needs there.Alice rarely allows us to wear the same thing twice. We’ve got piles of brand-newclothes that are destined for Goodwill, and I’d imagine that Leah is fairly close toEsme’s size. . . .”“Not sure how she’ll feel about bloodsucker castoffs. She’s not as practical as Iam.”“I trust that you can present the offer in the best possible light. As well as theoffer for any other physical object you might need, or transportation, or anythingelse at all. And showers, too, since you prefer to sleep outdoors. Please… don’tconsider yourselves without the benefits of a home.”
    • 205He said the last line softly—not trying to keep quiet this time, but with some kindof real emotion.I stared at him for a second, blinking sleepily. “That’s, er, nice of you. Tell Esmewe appreciate the, uh, thought. But the perimeter cuts through the river in a fewplaces, so we stay pretty clean, thanks.”“If you would pass the offer on, regardless.”“Sure, sure.”“Thank you.”I turned away from him, only to stop cold when I heard the low, pained cry frominside the house. By the time I looked back, he was already gone.What now?I followed after him, shuffling like a zombie. Using about the same number ofbrain cells, too. It didn’t feel like I had a choice. Something was wrong. I would gosee what it was. There would be nothing I could do. And I would feel worse.It seemed inevitable.I let myself in again. Bella was panting, curled over the bulge in the center of herbody. Rosalie held her while Edward, Carlisle, and Esme all hovered. A flicker ofmotion caught my eye; Alice was at the top of the stairs, staring down into theroom with her hands pressed to her temples. It was weird—like she was barredfrom entering somehow.“Give me a second, Carlisle,” Bella panted.“Bella,” the doctor said anxiously, “I heard something crack. I need to take alook.”“Pretty sure”—pant—“it was a rib. Ow. Yep. Right here.” She pointed to her leftside, careful not to touch.It was breaking her bones now.“I need to take an X-ray. There might be splinters. We don’t want it to punctureanything.”Bella took a deep breath. “Okay.”Rosalie lifted Bella carefully. Edward seemed like he was going to argue, butRosalie bared her teeth at him and growled, “I’ve already got her.”
    • 206So Bella was stronger now, but the thing was, too. You couldn’t starve onewithout starving the other, and healing worked just the same. No way to win.Blondie carried Bella swiftly up the big staircase with Carlisle and Edward righton her heels, none of them taking any notice of me standing dumbstruck in thedoorway.So they had a blood bank and an X-ray machine? Guess the doc brought his workhome with him.I was too tired to follow them, too tired to move. I leaned back against the walland then slid to the ground. The door was still open, and I pointed my nosetoward it, grateful for the clean breeze blowing in. I leaned my head against thejamb and listened.I could hear the sound of the X-ray machinery upstairs. Or maybe I just assumedthat’s what it was. And then the lightest of footsteps coming down the stairs. Ididn’t look to see which vampire it was.“Do you want a pillow?” Alice asked me.“No,” I mumbled. What was with the pushy hospitality? It was creeping me out.“That doesn’t look comfortable,” she observed.“S’not.”“Why don’t you move, then?”“Tired. Why aren’t you upstairs with the rest of them?” I shot back.“Headache,” she answered.I rolled my head around to look at her.Alice was a tiny little thing. ’Bout the size of one of my arms. She looked evensmaller now, sort of hunched in on herself. Her small face was pinched.“Vampires get headaches?”“Not the normal ones.”I snorted. Normal vampires.“So how come you’re never with Bella anymore?” I asked, making the question anaccusation. It hadn’t occurred to me before, because my head had been full ofother crap, but it was weird that Alice was never around Bella, not since I’d been
    • 207here. Maybe if Alice were by her side, Rosalie wouldn’t be. “Thought you twowere like this.” I twisted two of my fingers together.“Like I said”—she curled up on the tile a few feet from me, wrapping her skinnyarms around her skinny knees—“headache.”“Bella’s giving you a headache?”“Yes.”I frowned. Pretty sure I was too tired for riddles. I let my head roll back aroundtoward the fresh air and closed my eyes.“Not Bella, really,” she amended. “The… fetus.”Ah, someone else who felt like I did. It was pretty easy to recognize. She said theword grudgingly, the way Edward did.“I can’t see it,” she told me, though she might have been talking to herself. For allshe knew, I was already gone. “I can’t see anything about it. Just like you.”I flinched, and then my teeth ground together. I didn’t like being compared to thecreature.“Bella gets in the way. She’s all wrapped around it, so she’s… blurry. Like badreception on a TV—like trying to focus your eyes on those fuzzy people jerkingaround on the screen. It’s killing my head to watch her. And I can’t see more thana few minutes ahead, anyway. The… fetus is too much a part of her future. Whenshe first decided… when she knew she wanted it, she blurred right out of mysight. Scared me to death.”She was quiet for a second, and then she added, “I have to admit, it’s a reliefhaving you close by—in spite of the wet-dog smell. Everything goes away. Likehaving my eyes closed. It numbs the headache.”“Happy to be of service, ma’am,” I mumbled.“I wonder what it has in common with you… why you’re the same that way.”Sudden heat flashed in the center of my bones. I clenched my fists to hold off thetremors.“I have nothing in common with that life-sucker,” I said through my teeth.“Well, there’s something there.”
    • 208I didn’t answer. The heat was already burning away. I was too dead tired to stayfurious.“You don’t mind if I sit here by you, do you?” she asked.“Guess not. Stinks anyway.”“Thanks,” she said. “This is the best thing for it, I guess, since I can’t takeaspirin.”“Could you keep it down? Sleeping, here.”She didn’t respond, immediately lapsing into silence. I was out in seconds.I was dreaming that I was really thirsty. And there was a big glass of water infront of me—all cold, you could see the condensation running down the sides. Igrabbed the cup and took a huge gulp, only to find out pretty quick that it wasn’twater—it was straight bleach. I choked it back out, spewing it everywhere, and abunch of it blew out of my nose. It burned. My nose was on fire.…The pain in my nose woke me up enough to remember where I’d fallen asleep.The smell was pretty fierce, considering that my nose wasn’t actually inside thehouse. Ugh. And it was noisy. Someone was laughing too loud. A familiar laugh,but one that didn’t go with the smell. Didn’t belong.I groaned and opened my eyes. The skies were dull gray—it was daytime, but noclue as to when. Maybe close to sunset—it was pretty dark.“About time,” Blondie mumbled from not too far away. “The chainsawimpersonation was getting a little tired.”I rolled over and wrenched myself into a sitting position. In the process, I figuredout where the smell was coming from. Someone had stuffed a wide feather pillowunder my face. Probably trying to be nice, I’d guess. Unless it’d been Rosalie.Once my face was out of the stinking feathers, I caught other scents. Like baconand cinnamon, all mixed up with the vampire smell.I blinked, taking in the room.Things hadn’t changed too much, except that now Bella was sitting up in themiddle of the sofa, and the IV was gone. Blondie sat at her feet, her head restingagainst Bella’s knees. Still gave me chills to see how casually they touched her,though I guess that was pretty brain-dead, all things considered. Edward was onone side of her, holding her hand. Alice was on the floor, too, like Rosalie. Herface wasn’t pinched up now. And it was easy to see why—she’d found anotherpainkiller.
    • 209“Hey, Jake’s coming around!” Seth crowed.He was sitting on Bella’s other side, his arm slung carelessly over her shoulders,an overflowing plate of food on his lap.What the hell?“He came to find you,” Edward said while I got to my feet. “And Esme convincedhim to stay for breakfast.”Seth took in my expression, and he hurried to explain. “Yeah, Jake—I was justchecking to see if you were okay ’cause you didn’t ever phase back. Leah gotworried. I told her you probably just crashed human, but you know how she is.Anyway, they had all this food and, dang,”—he turned to Edward—“man, you cancook.”“Thank you,” Edward murmured.I inhaled slowly, trying to unclench my teeth. I couldn’t take my eyes off Seth’sarm.“Bella got cold,” Edward said quietly.Right. None of my business, anyway. She didn’t belong to me.Seth heard Edward’s comment, looked at my face, and suddenly he needed bothhands to eat with. He took his arm off Bella and dug in. I walked over to stand afew feet from the couch, still trying to get my bearings.“Leah running patrol?” I asked Seth. My voice was still thick with sleep.“Yeah,” he said as he chewed. Seth had new clothes on, too. They fit him betterthan mine fit me. “She’s on it. No worries. She’ll howl if there’s anything. Wetraded off around midnight. I ran twelve hours.” He was proud of that, and itshowed in his tone.“Midnight? Wait a minute—what time is it now?”“’Bout dawn.” He glanced toward the window, checking.Well, damn. I’d slept through the rest of the day and the whole night—droppedthe ball. “Crap. Sorry about that, Seth. Really. You shoulda kicked me awake.”“Naw, man, you needed some serious sleep. You haven’t taken a break sincewhen? Night before your last patrol for Sam? Like forty hours? Fifty? You’re not amachine, Jake. ’Sides, you didn’t miss anything at all.”
    • 210Nothing at all? I glanced quickly at Bella. Her color was back to the way Iremembered it. Pale, but with the rose undertone. Her lips were pink again. Evenher hair looked better—shinier. She saw me appraising and gave me a grin.“How’s the rib?” I asked.“Taped up nice and tight. I don’t even feel it.”I rolled my eyes. I heard Edward grind his teeth together, and I figured her blow-it-off attitude bugged him as much at it bugged me.“What’s for breakfast?” I asked, a little sarcastic. “O negative or AB positive?”She stuck her tongue out at me. Totally herself again. “Omelets,” she said, but hereyes darted down, and I saw that her cup of blood was wedged between her legand Edward’s.“Go get some breakfast, Jake,” Seth said. “There’s a bunch in the kitchen. You’vegot to be empty.”I examined the food in his lap. Looked like half a cheese omelet and the lastfourth of a Frisbee-sized cinnamon roll. My stomach growled, but I ignored it.“What’s Leah having for breakfast?” I asked Seth critically.“Hey, I took food to her before I ate anything,” he defended himself. “She saidshe’d rather eat roadkill, but I bet she caves. These cinnamon rolls… ” He seemedat a loss for words.“I’ll go hunt with her, then.”Seth sighed as I turned to leave.“A moment, Jacob?”It was Carlisle asking, so when I turned around again, my face was probably lessdisrespectful than it would have been if anyone else had stopped me.“Yeah?”Carlisle approached me while Esme drifted off toward the other room. Hestopped a few feet away, just a little bit farther away than the normal spacebetween two humans having a conversation. I appreciated him giving me myspace.“Speaking of hunting,” he began in a somber tone. “That’s going to be an issue formy family. I understand that our previous truce is inoperative at the moment, so I
    • 211wanted your advice. Will Sam be hunting for us outside of the perimeter you’vecreated? We don’t want to take a chance with hurting any of your family—orlosing any of ours. If you were in our shoes, how would you proceed?”I leaned away, a little surprised, when he threw it back at me like that. Whatwould I know about being in a bloodsucker’s expensive shoes? But, then again, Idid know Sam.“It’s a risk,” I said, trying to ignore the other eyes I felt on me and to talk only tohim. “Sam’s calmed down some, but I’m pretty sure that in his head, the treaty isvoid. As long as he thinks the tribe, or any other human, is in real danger, he’s notgoing to ask questions first, if you know what I mean. But, with all that, hispriority is going to be La Push. There really aren’t enough of them to keep adecent watch on the people while putting out hunting parties big enough to domuch damage. I’d bet he’s keeping it close to home.”Carlisle nodded thoughtfully.“So I guess I’d say, go out together, just in case. And probably you should go inthe day, ’cause we’d be expecting night. Traditional vampire stuff. You’re fast—goover the mountains and hunt far enough away that there’s no chance he’d sendanyone that far from home.”“And leave Bella behind, unprotected?”I snorted. “What are we, chopped liver?”Carlisle laughed, and then his face was serious again. “Jacob, you can’t fightagainst your brothers.”My eyes tightened. “I’m not saying it wouldn’t be hard, but if they were reallycoming to kill her—I would be able to stop them.”Carlisle shook his head, anxious. “No, I didn’t mean that you would be…incapable. But that it would be very wrong. I can’t have that on my conscience.”“It wouldn’t be on yours, Doc. It would be on mine. And I can take it.”“No, Jacob. We will make sure that our actions don’t make that a necessity.” Hefrowned thoughtfully “We’ll go three at a time,” he decided after a second. “That’sprobably the best we can do.”“I don’t know, Doc. Dividing down the middle isn’t the best strategy.”“We’ve got some extra abilities that will even it up. If Edward is one of the three,he’ll be able to give us a few miles’ radius of safety.”
    • 212We both glanced at Edward. His expression had Carlisle backtracking quickly.“I’m sure there are other ways, too,” Carlisle said. Clearly, there was no physicalneed strong enough to get Edward away from Bella now. “Alice, I would imagineyou could see which routes would be a mistake?”“The ones that disappear,” Alice said, nodding. “Easy.”Edward, who had gone all tense with Carlisle’s first plan, loosened up. Bella wasstaring unhappily at Alice, that little crease between her eyes that she got whenshe was stressed out.“Okay, then,” I said. “That’s settled. I’ll just be on my way. Seth, I’ll expect youback on at dusk, so get a nap in there somewhere, all right?”“Sure, Jake. I’ll phase back soon as I’m done. Unless . . .” he hesitated, looking atBella. “Do you need me?”“She’s got blankets,” I snapped at him.“I’m fine, Seth, thanks,” Bella said quickly.And then Esme flitted back in the room, a big covered dish in her hands. Shestopped hesitantly just behind Carlisle’s elbow, her wide, dark gold eyes on myface. She held the dish out and took a shy step closer.“Jacob,” she said quietly. Her voice wasn’t quite so piercing as the others’. “Iknow it’s… unappetizing to you, the idea of eating here, where it smells sounpleasant. But I would feel much better if you would take some food with youwhen you go. I know you can’t go home, and that’s because of us. Please—easesome of my remorse. Take something to eat.” She held the food out to me, herface all soft and pleading. I don’t know how she did it, because she didn’t lookolder than her mid-twenties, and she was bone pale, too, but something about herexpression suddenly reminded me of my mom.Jeez.“Uh, sure, sure,” I mumbled. “I guess. Maybe Leah’s still hungry or something.”I reached out and took the food with one hand, holding it away, at arm’s length.I’d go dump it under a tree or something. I didn’t want her to feel bad.Then I remembered Edward.Don’t you say anything to her! Let her think I ate it.
    • 213I didn’t look at him to see if he was in agreement. He’d better be in agreement.Bloodsucker owed me.“Thank you, Jacob,” Esme said, smiling at me. How did a stone face havedimples, for crying out loud?“Um, thank you,” I said. My face felt hot—hotter than usual.This was the problem with hanging out with vampires—you got used to them.They started messing up the way you saw the world. They started feeling likefriends.“Will you come back later, Jake?” Bella asked as I tried to make a run for it.“Uh, I don’t know.”She pressed her lips together, like she was trying not to smile. “Please? I mightget cold.”I inhaled deeply through my nose, and then realized, too late, that that was not agood idea. I winced. “Maybe.”“Jacob?” Esme asked. I backed toward the door as she continued; she took a fewsteps after me. “I left a basket of clothes on the porch. They’re for Leah. They’refreshly washed—I tried to touch them as little as possible.” She frowned. “Do youmind taking them to her?”“On it,” I muttered, and then I ducked out the door before anyone could guilt meinto anything else.
    • 214 15. TICK TOCK TICK TOCK TICK TOCKHey Jake, thought you said you wanted me at dusk. How come you didn’t haveLeah wake me up before she crashed?’Cause I didn’t need you. I’m still good.He was already picking up the north half of the circle. Anything?Nope. Nothing but nothing.You did some scouting?He’d caught the edge of one of my side trips. He headed up the new trail.Yeah—I ran a few spokes. You know, just checking. If the Cullens are going tomake a hunting trip…Good call.Seth looped back toward the main perimeter.It was easier to run with him than it was to do the same with Leah. Though shewas trying—trying hard—there was always an edge to her thoughts. She didn’twant to be here. She didn’t want to feel the softening toward the vampires thatwas going on in my head. She didn’t want to deal with Seth’s cozy friendship withthem, a friendship that was only getting stronger.Funny, though, I’d’ve thought her biggest issue would just be me. We’d alwaysgotten on each other’s nerves when we were in Sam’s pack. But there was noantagonism toward me now at all, just the Cullens and Bella. I wondered why.Maybe it was simply gratitude that I wasn’t forcing her to leave. Maybe it wasbecause I understood her hostility better now. Whichever, running with Leahwasn’t nearly as bad as I’d expected.Of course, she hadn’t eased up that much. The food and clothes Esme had sentfor her were all taking a trip downriver right now. Even after I’d eaten my share—not because it smelled nearly irresistible away from the vampire burn, but to set agood example of self-sacrificing tolerance for Leah—she’d refused. The small elkshe’d taken down around noon had not totally satisfied her appetite. Did makeher mood worse, though. Leah hated eating raw.Maybe we should run a sweep east? Seth suggested. Go deep, see if they’re outthere waiting.
    • 215I was thinking about that, I agreed. But let’s do it when we’re all awake. I don’twant to let down our guard. We should do it before the Cullens give it a try,though. Soon.Right.That got me thinking.If the Cullens were able to get out of the immediate area safely, they really oughtto keep on going. They probably should have taken off the second we’d come towarn them. They had to be able to afford other digs. And they had friends upnorth, right? Take Bella and run. It seemed like an obvious answer to theirproblems.I probably ought to suggest that, but I was afraid they would listen to me. And Ididn’t want to have Bella disappear—to never know whether she’d made it or not.No, that was stupid. I would tell them to go. It made no sense for them to stay,and it would be better—not less painful, but healthier—for me if Bella left.Easy to say now, when Bella wasn’t right there, looking all thrilled to see me andalso clinging to life by her fingernails at the same time…Oh, I already asked Edward about that, Seth thought.What?I asked him why they hadn’t taken off yet. Gone up to Tanya’s place orsomething. Somewhere too far for Sam to come after them.I had to remind myself that I’d just decided to give the Cullens that exact advice.That it was best. So I shouldn’t be mad at Seth for taking the chore out of myhands. Not mad at all.So what did he say? Are they waiting for a window?No. They’re not leaving.And that shouldn’t sound like good news.Why not? That’s just stupid.Not really, Seth said, defensive now. It takes some time to build up the kind ofmedical access that Carlisle has here. He’s got all the stuff he needs to take careof Bella, and the credentials to get more. That’s one of the reasons they want tomake a hunting run. Carlisle thinks they’re going to need more blood for Bellasoon. She’s using up all the O negative they stored for her. He doesn’t like
    • 216depleting the stockpile. He’s going to buy some more. Did you know you can buyblood? If you’re a doctor.I wasn’t ready to be logical yet. Still seems stupid. They could bring most of itwith them, right? And steal what they need wherever they go. Who cares aboutlegal crap when you’re the undead?Edward doesn’t want to take any risks moving her.She’s better than she was.Seriously, Seth agreed. In his head, he was comparing my memories of Bellahooked up to the tubes with the last time he’d seen her as he’d left the house.She’d smiled at him and waved. But she can’t move around much, you know.That thing is kicking the hell out of her.I swallowed back the stomach acid in my throat. Yeah, I know.Broke another of her ribs, he told me somberly.My stride faltered, and I staggered a step before I regained my rhythm.Carlisle taped her up again. Just another crack, he said. Then Rosalie saidsomething about how even normal human babies have been known to crackribs. Edward looked like he was gonna rip her head off.Too bad he didn’t.Seth was in full report mode now—knowing it was all vitally interesting to me,though I’d never’ve asked to hear it. Bella’s been running a fever off and ontoday. Just low grade—sweats and then chills. Carlisle’s not sure what to makeof it—she might just be sick. Her immune system can’t be in peak form rightnow.Yeah, I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.She’s in a good mood, though. She was chatting with Charlie, laughing and all—Charlie! What?! What do you mean, she was talking to Charlie?!Now Seth’s pace stuttered; my fury surprised him. Guess he calls every day totalk to her. Sometimes her mom calls, too. Bella sounds so much better now, soshe was reassuring him that she was on the mend—On the mend? What the hell are they thinking?! Get Charlie’s hopes up just sothat he can be destroyed even worse when she dies? I thought they were gettinghim ready for that! Trying to prepare him! Why would she set him up like this?
    • 217She might not die, Seth thought quietly.I took deep breath, trying to calm myself. Seth. Even if she pulls through this,she’s not doing it human. She knows that, and so do the rest of them. If shedoesn’t die, she’s going to have to do a pretty convincing impersonation of acorpse, kid. Either that, or disappear. I thought they were trying to make thiseasier on Charlie. Why… ?Think it’s Bella’s idea. No one said anything, but Edward’s face kinda went rightalong with what you’re thinking now.On the same wavelength with the bloodsucker yet again.We ran in silence for a few minutes. I started off along a new line, probing south.Don’t get too far.Why?Bella asked me to ask you to stop by.My teeth locked together.Alice wants you, too. She says she’s tired of hanging out in the attic like thevampire bat in the belfry. Seth snorted a laugh. I was switching off with Edwardbefore. Trying to keep Bella’s temperature stable. Cold to hot, as needed. I guess,if you don’t want to do it, I could go back—No. I got it, I snapped.Okay. Seth didn’t make any more comments. He concentrated very hard on theempty forest.I kept my southern course, searching for anything new. I turned around when Igot close to the first signs of habitation. Not near the town yet, but I didn’t wantto get any wolf rumors going again. We’d been nice and invisible for a long whilenow.I passed right through the perimeter on my way back, heading for the house. Asmuch as I knew it was a stupid thing to do, I couldn’t stop myself. I must be somekind of masochist.There’s nothing wrong with you, Jake. This isn’t the most normal situation.Shut up, please, Seth.Shutting.
    • 218I didn’t hesitate at the door this time; I just walked through like I owned theplace. I figured that would piss Rosalie off, but it was a wasted effort. NeitherRosalie or Bella were anywhere in sight. I looked around wildly, hoping I’dmissed them somewhere, my heart squeezing against my ribs in a weird,uncomfortable way.“She’s all right,” Edward whispered. “Or, the same, I should say.”Edward was on the couch with his face in his hands; he hadn’t looked up tospeak. Esme was next to him, her arm wrapped tight around his shoulders.“Hello, Jacob,” she said. “I’m so glad you came back.”“Me, too,” Alice said with a deep sigh. She came prancing down the stairs, makinga face. Like I was late for an appointment.“Uh, hey,” I said. It felt weird to try to be polite.“Where’s Bella?”“Bathroom,” Alice told me. “Mostly fluid diet, you know. Plus, the wholepregnancy thing does that to you, I hear.”“Ah.”I stood there awkwardly, rocking back and forth on my heels.“Oh, wonderful,” Rosalie grumbled. I whipped my head around and saw hercoming from a hall half-hidden behind the stairway. She had Bella cradled gentlyin her arms, a harsh sneer on her face for me. “I knew I smelled somethingnasty.”And, just like before, Bella’s face lit up like a kid’s on Christmas morning. Like I’dbrought her the greatest gift ever.It was so unfair.“Jacob,” she breathed. “You came.”“Hi, Bells.”Esme and Edward both got up. I watched how carefully Rosalie laid Bella out onthe couch. I watched how, despite that, Bella turned white and held her breath—like she was set on not making any noise no matter how much it hurt.
    • 219Edward brushed his hand across her forehead and then along her neck. He triedto make it look as if he was just sweeping her hair back, but it looked like adoctor’s examination to me.“Are you cold?” he murmured.“I’m fine.”“Bella, you know what Carlisle told you,” Rosalie said. “Don’t downplay anything.It doesn’t help us take care of either of you.”“Okay, I’m a little cold. Edward, can you hand me that blanket?”I rolled my eyes. “Isn’t that sort of the point of me being here?”“You just walked in,” Bella said. “After running all day, I’d bet. Put your feet upfor a minute. I’ll probably warm up again in no time.”I ignored her, going to sit on the floor next the sofa while she was still telling mewhat to do. At that point, though, I wasn’t sure how.… She looked pretty brittle,and I was afraid to move her, even to put my arms around her. So I just leanedcarefully against her side, letting my arm rest along the length of hers, and heldher hand. Then I put my other hand against her face. It was hard to tell if she feltcolder than usual.“Thanks, Jake,” she said, and I felt her shiver once.“Yeah,” I said.Edward sat on the arm of the sofa by Bella’s feet, his eyes always on her face.It was too much to hope, with all the super-hearing in the room, that no onewould notice my stomach rumbling.“Rosalie, why don’t you get Jacob something from the kitchen?” Alice said. Shewas invisible now, sitting quietly behind the back of the sofa.Rosalie stared at the place Alice’s voice had come from in disbelief.“Thanks, anyway, Alice, but I don’t think I’d want to eat something Blondie’s spitin. I’d bet my system wouldn’t take too kindly to venom.”“Rosalie would never embarrass Esme by displaying such a lack of hospitality.”“Of course not,” Blondie said in a sugar-sweet voice that I immediatelydistrusted. She got up and breezed out of the room.
    • 220Edward sighed.“You’d tell me if she poisoned it, right?” I asked.“Yes,” Edward promised.And for some reason I believed him.There was a lot of banging in the kitchen, and—weirdly—the sound of metalprotesting as it was abused. Edward sighed again, but smiled just a little, too.Then Rosalie was back before I could think much more about it. With a pleasedsmirk, she set a silver bowl on the floor next to me.“Enjoy, mongrel.”It had once probably been a big mixing bowl, but she’d bent the bowl back in onitself until it was shaped almost exactly like a dog dish. I had to be impressedwith her quick craftsmanship. And her attention to detail. She’d scratched theword Fido into the side. Excellent handwriting.Because the food looked pretty good—steak, no less, and a big baked potato withall the fixings—I told her, “Thanks, Blondie.”She snorted.“Hey, do you know what you call a blonde with a brain?” I asked, and thencontinued on the same breath, “a golden retriever.”“I’ve heard that one, too,” she said, no longer smiling.“I’ll keep trying,” I promised, and then I dug in.She made a disgusted face and rolled her eyes. Then she sat in one of thearmchairs and started flicking through channels on the big TV so fast that therewas no way she could really be surfing for something to watch.The food was good, even with the vampire stink in the air. I was getting reallyused to that. Huh. Not something I’d been wanting to do, exactly…When I was finished—though I was considering licking the bowl, just to giveRosalie something to complain about—I felt Bella’s cold fingers pulling softlythrough my hair. She patted it down against the back of my neck.“Time for a haircut, huh?”“You’re getting a little shaggy,” she said. “Maybe—”
    • 221“Let me guess, someone around here used to cut hair in a salon in Paris?”She chuckled. “Probably.”“No thanks,” I said before she could really offer. “I’m good for a few more weeks.”Which made me wonder how long she was good for. I tried to think of a politeway to ask.“So… um… what’s the, er, date? You know, the due date for the little monster.”She smacked the back of my head with about as much force as a drifting feather,but didn’t answer.“I’m serious,” I told her. “I want to know how long I’m gonna have to be here.”How long you’re gonna be here, I added in my head. I turned to look at her then.Her eyes were thoughtful; the stress line was there between her brows again.“I don’t know,” she murmured. “Not exactly. Obviously, we’re not going with thenine-month model here, and we can’t get an ultrasound, so Carlisle isguesstimating from how big I am. Normal people are supposed to be about fortycentimeters here”—she ran her finger right down the middle of her bulgingstomach—“when the baby is fully grown. One centimeter for every week. I wasthirty this morning, and I’ve been gaining about two centimeters a day,sometimes more. . . .”Two weeks to a day, the days flying by. Her life speeding by in fast-forward. Howmany days did that give her, if she was counting to forty? Four? It took me aminute to figure out how to swallow.“You okay?” she asked.I nodded, not really sure how my voice would come out.Edward’s face was turned away from us as he listened to my thoughts, but I couldsee his reflection in the glass wall. He was the burning man again.Funny how having a deadline made it harder to think about leaving, or having herleave. I was glad Seth’d brought that up, so I knew they were staying here. Itwould be intolerable, wondering if they were about to go, to take away one or twoor three of those four days. My four days.Also funny how, even knowing that it was almost over, the hold she had on meonly got harder to break. Almost like it was related to her expanding belly—as ifby getting bigger, she was gaining gravitational force.
    • 222For a minute I tried to look at her from a distance, to separate myself from thepull. I knew it wasn’t my imagination that my need for her was stronger thanever. Why was that? Because she was dying? Or knowing that even if she didn’t,still—best case scenario—she’d be changing into something else that I wouldn’tknow or understand?She ran her finger across my cheekbone, and my skin was wet where she touchedit.“It’s going to be okay,” she sort of crooned. It didn’t matter that the words meantnothing. She said it the way people sang those senseless nursery rhymes to kids.Rock-a-bye, baby.“Right,” I muttered.She curled against my arm, resting her head on my shoulder. “I didn’t think youwould come. Seth said you would, and so did Edward, but I didn’t believe them.”“Why not?” I asked gruffly.“You’re not happy here. But you came anyway.”“You wanted me here.”“I know. But you didn’t have to come, because it’s not fair for me to want youhere. I would have understood.”It was quiet for a minute. Edward’d put his face back together. He looked at theTV as Rosalie went on flipping through the channels. She was into the sixhundreds. I wondered how long it would take to get back to the beginning.“Thank you for coming,” Bella whispered.“Can I ask you something?” I asked.“Of course.”Edward didn’t look like he was paying attention to us at all, but he knew what Iwas about to ask, so he didn’t fool me.“Why do you want me here? Seth could keep you warm, and he’s probably easierto be around, happy little punk. But when I walk in the door, you smile like I’myour favorite person in the world.”“You’re one of them.”“That sucks, you know.”
    • 223“Yeah.” She sighed. “Sorry.”“Why, though? You didn’t answer that.”Edward was looking away again, like he was staring out the windows. His facewas blank in the reflection.“It feels… complete when you’re here, Jacob. Like all my family is together. Imean, I guess that’s what it’s like—I’ve never had a big family before now. It’snice.” She smiled for half a second. “But it’s just not whole unless you’re here.”“I’ll never be part of your family, Bella.”I could have been. I would have been good there. But that was just a distantfuture that died long before it had a chance to live.“You’ve always been a part of my family,” she disagreed.My teeth made a grinding sound. “That’s a crap answer.”“What’s a good one?”“How about, ‘Jacob, I get a kick out of your pain.’”I felt her flinch.“You’d like that better?” she whispered.“It’s easier, at least. I could wrap my head around it. I could deal with it.”I looked back down at her face then, so close to mine. Her eyes were shut and shewas frowning. “We got off track, Jake. Out of balance. You’re supposed to be partof my life—I can feel that, and so can you.” She paused for a second withoutopening her eyes—like she was waiting for me to deny it. When I didn’t sayanything, she went on. “But not like this. We did something wrong. No. I did. Idid something wrong, and we got off track. . . .”Her voice trailed off, and the frown on her face relaxed until it was just a littlepucker at the corner of her lips. I waited for her to pour some more lemon juiceinto my paper cuts, but then a soft snore came from the back of her throat.“She’s exhausted,” Edward murmured. “It’s been a long day. A hard day. I thinkshe would have gone to sleep earlier, but she was waiting for you.”I didn’t look at him.“Seth said it broke another of her ribs.”
    • 224“Yes. It’s making it hard for her to breathe.”“Great.”“Let me know when she gets hot again.”“Yeah.”She still had goose bumps on the arm that wasn’t touching mine. I’d barely raisedmy head to look for a blanket when Edward snagged one draped over the arm ofthe sofa and flung it out so that it settled over her.Occasionally, the mind-reading thing saved time. For example, maybe I wouldn’thave to make a big production out of the accusation about what was going onwith Charlie. That mess. Edward would just hear exactly how furious—“Yes,” he agreed. “It’s not a good idea.”“Then why?” Why was Bella telling her father she was on the mend when it wouldonly make him more miserable?“She can’t bear his anxiety.”“So it’s better—”“No. It’s not better. But I’m not going to force her to do anything that makes herunhappy now. Whatever happens, this makes her feel better. I’ll deal with the restafterward.”That didn’t sound right. Bella wouldn’t just shuffle Charlie’s pain off to some laterdate, for someone else to face. Even dying. That wasn’t her. If I knew Bella, shehad to have some other plan.“She’s very sure she’s going to live,” Edward said.“But not human,” I protested.“No, not human. But she hopes to see Charlie again, anyway.”Oh, this just got better and better.“See. Charlie.” I finally looked at him, my eyes bugging. “Afterwards. See Charliewhen she’s all sparkly white with the bright red eyes. I’m not a bloodsucker, somaybe I’m missing something, but Charlie seems like kind of a strange choice forher first meal.”
    • 225Edward sighed. “She knows she won’t be able to be near him for at least a year.She thinks she can stall. Tell Charlie she has to go to a special hospital on theother side of the world. Keep in contact through phone calls. . . .”“That’s insane.”“Yes.”“Charlie’s not stupid. Even if she doesn’t kill him, he’s going to notice adifference.”“She’s sort of banking on that.”I continued to stare, waiting for him to explain.“She wouldn’t be aging, of course, so that would set a time limit, even if Charlieaccepted whatever excuse she comes up with for the changes.” He smiled faintly.“Do you remember when you tried to tell her about your transformation? Howyou made her guess?”My free hand flexed into a fist. “She told you about that?”“Yes. She was explaining her… idea. You see, she’s not allowed to tell Charlie thetruth—it would be very dangerous for him. But he’s a smart, practical man. Shethinks he’ll come up with his own explanation. She assumes he’ll get it wrong.”Edward snorted. “After all, we hardly adhere to vampire canon. He’ll make somewrong assumption about us, like she did in the beginning, and we’ll go along withit. She thinks she’ll be able to see him… from time to time.”“Insane,” I repeated.“Yes,” he agreed again.It was weak of him to let her get her way on this, just to keep her happy now. Itwouldn’t turn out well.Which made me think that he probably wasn’t expecting her to live to try out hercrazy plan. Placating her, so that she could be happy for a little while longer.Like four more days.“I’ll deal with whatever comes,” he whispered, and he turned his face down andaway so that I couldn’t even read his reflection. “I won’t cause her pain now.”“Four days?” I asked.He didn’t look up. “Approximately.”
    • 226“Then what?”“What do you mean, exactly?”I thought about what Bella had said. About the thing being wrapped up nice andtight in something strong, something like vampire skin. So how did that work?How did it get out?“From what little research we’ve been able to do, it would appear the creaturesuse their own teeth to escape the womb,” he whispered.I had to pause to swallow back the bile.“Research?” I asked weakly.“That’s why you haven’t seen Jasper and Emmett around. That’s what Carlisle isdoing now. Trying to decipher ancient stories and myths, as much as we can withwhat we have to work with here, looking for anything that might help us predictthe creature’s behavior.”Stories? If there were myths, then…“Then is this thing not the first of its kind?” Edward asked, anticipating myquestion. “Maybe. It’s all very sketchy. The myths could easily be the products offear and imagination. Though . . .”—he hesitated—“your myths are true, are theynot? Perhaps these are, too. They do seem to be localized, linked. . . .”“How did you find… ?”“There was a woman we encountered in South America. She’d been raised in thetraditions of her people. She’d heard warnings about such creatures, old storiesthat had been passed down.”“What were the warnings?” I whispered.“That the creature must be killed immediately. Before it could gain too muchstrength.”Just like Sam thought. Was he right?“Of course, their legends say the same of us. That we must be destroyed. That weare soulless murderers.”Two for two.Edward laughed one hard chuckle.
    • 227“What did their stories say about the… mothers?”Agony ripped across his face, and, as I flinched away from his pain, I knew hewasn’t going to give me an answer. I doubted he could talk.It was Rosalie—who’d been so still and quiet since Bella’d fallen asleep that I’dnearly forgotten her—who answered.She made a scornful noise in the back of her throat. “Of course there were nosurvivors,” she said. No survivors, blunt and uncaring. “Giving birth in themiddle of a disease-infested swamp with a medicine man smearing sloth spitacross your face to drive out the evil spirits was never the safest method. Even thenormal births went badly half the time. None of them had what this baby has—caregivers with an idea of what the baby needs, who try to meet those needs. Adoctor with a totally unique knowledge of vampire nature. A plan in place todeliver the baby as safely as possible. Venom that will repair anything that goeswrong. The baby will be fine. And those other mothers would probably havesurvived if they’d had that—if they even existed in the first place. Something I amnot convinced of.” She sniffed disdainfully.The baby, the baby. Like that was all that mattered. Bella’s life was a minor detailto her—easy to blow off.Edward’s face went white as snow. His hands curved into claws. Totallyegotistical and indifferent, Rosalie twisted in her chair so that her back was tohim. He leaned forward, shifting into a crouch.Allow me, I suggested.He paused, raising one eyebrow.Silently, I lifted my doggy bowl off the floor. Then, with a quick, powerful flip ofmy wrist, I threw it into the back of Blondie’s head so hard that—with anearsplitting bang—it smashed flat before it ricocheted across the room andsnapped the round top piece off the thick newel post at the foot of the stairs.Bella twitched but didn’t wake up.“Dumb blonde,” I muttered.Rosalie turned her head slowly, and her eyes were blazing.“You. Got. Food. In. My. Hair.”That did it.
    • 228I busted up. I pulled away from Bella so that I wouldn’t shake her, and laughed sohard that tears ran down my face. From behind the couch, I heard Alice’s tinklinglaugh join in.I wondered why Rosalie didn’t spring. I sort of expected it. But then I realizedthat my laughing had woken Bella up, though she’d slept right through the realnoise.“What’s so funny?” she mumbled.“I got food in her hair,” I told her, chortling again.“I’m not going to forget this, dog,” Rosalie hissed.“S’not so hard to erase a blonde’s memory,” I countered. “Just blow in her ear.”“Get some new jokes,” she snapped.“C’mon, Jake. Leave Rose alo—” Bella broke off mid-sentence and sucked in asharp breath. In the same second, Edward was leaning over the top of me, rippingthe blanket out of the way. She seemed to convulse, her back arching off the sofa.“He’s just,” she panted, “stretching.”Her lips were white, and she had her teeth locked together like she was trying tohold back a scream.Edward put both hands on either side of her face.“Carlisle?” he called in a tense, low voice.“Right here,” the doctor said. I hadn’t heard him come in.“Okay,” Bella said, still breathing hard and shallow. “Think it’s over. Poor kiddoesn’t have enough room, that’s all. He’s getting so big.”It was really hard to take, that adoring tone she used to describe the thing thatwas tearing her up. Especially after Rosalie’s callousness. Made me wish I couldthrow something at Bella, too.She didn’t pick up on my mood. “You know, he reminds me of you, Jake,” shesaid—affectionate tone—still gasping.“Do not compare me to that thing,” I spit out through my teeth.
    • 229“I just meant your growth spurt,” she said, looking like I’d hurt her feelings.Good. “You shot right up. I could watch you getting taller by the minute. He’s likethat, too. Growing so fast.”I bit my tongue to keep from saying what I wanted to say—hard enough that Itasted blood in my mouth. Of course, it would heal before I could swallow. That’swhat Bella needed. To be strong like me, to be able to heal.…She took an easier breath and then relaxed back into the sofa, her body goinglimp.“Hmm,” Carlisle murmured. I looked up, and his eyes were on me.“What?” I demanded.Edward’s head leaned to one side as he reflected on whatever was in Carlisle’shead.“You know that I was wondering about the fetus’s genetic makeup, Jacob. Abouthis chromosomes.”“What of it?”“Well, taking your similarities into consideration—”“Similarities?” I growled, not appreciating the plural.“The accelerated growth, and the fact that Alice cannot see either of you.”I felt my face go blank. I’d forgotten about that other one.“Well, I wonder if that means that we have an answer. If the similarities are gene-deep.”“Twenty-four pairs,” Edward muttered under his breath.“You don’t know that.”“No. But it’s interesting to speculate,” Carlisle said in a soothing voice.“Yeah. Just fascinating.”Bella’s light snore started up again, accenting my sarcasm nicely.They got into it then, quickly taking the genetics conversation to a point wherethe only words I could understand were the the’s and the and’s. And my own
    • 230name, of course. Alice joined in, commenting now and then in her chirpy birdvoice.Even though they were talking about me, I didn’t try to figure out the conclusionsthey were drawing. I had other things on my mind, a few facts I was trying toreconcile.Fact one, Bella’d said that the creature was protected by something as strong asvampire skin, something that was too impenetrable for ultrasounds, too tough forneedles. Fact two, Rosalie’d said they had a plan to deliver the creature safely.Fact three, Edward’d said that—in myths—other monsters like this one wouldchew their way out of their own mothers.I shuddered.And that made a sick kind of sense, because, fact four, not many things could cutthrough something as strong as vampire skin. The half-creature’s teeth—according to myth—were strong enough. My teeth were strong enough.And vampire teeth were strong enough.It was hard to miss the obvious, but I sure wished I could. Because I had a prettygood idea exactly how Rosalie planned to get that thing “safely” out.
    • 231 16. TOO-MUCH-INFORMATION ALERTI took off early, long before sunrise was due. I’d gotten just a little bit of uneasysleep leaning against the side of the sofa. Edward woke me when Bella’s face wasflushed, and he took my spot to cool her back down. I stretched and decided I wasrested enough to get some work done.“Thank you,” Edward said quietly, seeing my plans. “If the route is clear, they’llgo today.”“I’ll let you know.”It felt good to get back to my animal self. I was stiff from sitting still for so long. Iextended my stride, working out the kinks.Morning, Jacob, Leah greeted me.Good, you’re up. How long’s Seth been out?Not out yet, Seth thought sleepily. Almost there. What do you need?You think you got another hour in you?Sure thing. No problem. Seth got to his feet right away, shaking out his fur.Let’s make the deep run, I told Leah. Seth, take the perimeter.Gotcha. Seth broke into an easy jog.Off on another vampire errand, Leah grumbled.You got a problem with that?Of course not. I just love to coddle those darling leeches.Good. Let’s see how fast we can run.Okay, I’m definitely up for that!Leah was on the far western rim of the perimeter. Rather than cut close to theCullens’ house, she stuck to the circle as she raced around to meet me. I sprintedoff straight east, knowing that even with the head start, she’d be passing me soonif I took it easy for even a second.Nose to the ground, Leah. This isn’t a race, it’s a reconnaissance mission.
    • 232I can do both and still kick your butt.I gave her that one. I know.She laughed.We took a winding path through the eastern mountains. It was a familiar route.We’d run these mountains when the vampires had left a year ago, making it partof our patrol route to better protect the people here. Then we’d pulled back thelines when the Cullens returned. This was their treaty land.But that fact would probably mean nothing to Sam now. The treaty was dead. Thequestion today was how thin he was willing to spread his force. Was he lookingfor stray Cullens to poach on their land or not? Had Jared spoken the truth ortaken advantage of the silence between us?We got deeper and deeper into the mountains without finding any trace of thepack. Fading vampire trails were everywhere, but the scents were familiar now. Iwas breathing them in all day long.I found a heavy, somewhat recent concentration on one particular trail—all ofthem coming and going here except for Edward. Some reason for gathering thatmust have been forgotten when Edward brought his dying pregnant wife home. Igritted my teeth. Whatever it was, it had nothing to do with me.Leah didn’t push herself past me, though she could have now. I was paying moreattention to each new scent than I was to the speed contest. She kept to my rightside, running with me rather than racing against me.We’re getting pretty far out here, she commented.Yeah. If Sam was hunting strays, we should have crossed his trail by now.Makes more sense right now for him to bunker down in La Push, Leah thought.He knows we’re giving the bloodsuckers three extra sets of eyes and legs. He’snot going to be able to surprise them.This was just a precaution, really.Wouldn’t want our precious parasites taking unnecessary chances.Nope, I agreed, ignoring the sarcasm.You’ve changed so much, Jacob. Talk about one-eighties.You’re not exactly the same Leah I’ve always known and loved, either.
    • 233True. Am I less annoying than Paul now?Amazingly… yes.Ah, sweet success.Congrats.We ran in silence again then. It was probably time to turn around, but neither ofus wanted to. It felt nice to run like this. We’d been staring at the same smallcircle of a trail for too long. It felt good to stretch our muscles and take the ruggedterrain. We weren’t in a huge hurry, so I thought maybe we should hunt on theway back. Leah was pretty hungry.Yum, yum, she thought sourly.It’s all in your head, I told her. That’s the way wolves eat. It’s natural. It tastesfine. If you didn’t think about it from a human perspective—Forget the pep talk, Jacob. I’ll hunt. I don’t have to like it.Sure, sure, I agreed easily. It wasn’t my business if she wanted to make thingsharder for herself.She didn’t add anything for a few minutes; I started thinking about turning back.Thank you, Leah suddenly told me in a much different tone.For?For letting me be. For letting me stay. You’ve been nicer than I had any right toexpect, Jacob.Er, no problem. Actually, I mean that. I don’t mind having you here like Ithought I would.She snorted, but it was a playful sound. What a glowing commendation!Don’t let it go to your head.Okay—if you don’t let this go to yours. She paused for a second. I think you makea good Alpha. Not in the same way Sam does, but in your own way. You’reworth following, Jacob.My mind went blank with surprise. It took me a second to recover enough torespond.
    • 234Er, thanks. Not totally sure I’ll be able to stop that one from going to my head,though. Where did that come from?She didn’t answer right away, and I followed the wordless direction of herthoughts. She was thinking about the future—about what I’d said to Jared theother morning. About how the time would be up soon, and then I’d go back to theforest. About how I’d promised that she and Seth would return to the pack whenthe Cullens were gone. . . .I want to stay with you, she told me.The shock shot through my legs, locking my joints. She blew past me and thenput on the brakes. Slowly, she walked back to where I was frozen in place.I won’t be a pain, I swear. I won’t follow you around. You can go wherever youwant, and I’ll go where I want. You’ll only have to put up with me when we’reboth wolves. She paced back and forth in front of me, swishing her long gray tailnervously. And, as I’m planning on quitting as soon as I can manage it… maybethat won’t be so often.I didn’t know what to say.I’m happier now, as a part of your pack, than I have been in years.I want to stay, too, Seth thought quietly. I hadn’t realized he’d been paying muchattention to us as he ran the perimeter. I like this pack.Hey, now! Seth, this isn’t going to be a pack much longer. I tried to put mythoughts together so they would convince him. We’ve got a purpose now, butwhen… after that’s over, I’m just going to go wolf. Seth, you need a purpose.You’re a good kid. You’re the kind of person who always has a crusade. Andthere’s no way you’re leaving La Push now. You’re going to graduate from highschool and do something with your life. You’re going to take care of Sue. Myissues are not going to mess up your future.But—Jacob is right, Leah seconded.You’re agreeing with me?Of course. But none of that applies to me. I was on my way out, anyway. I’ll geta job somewhere away from La Push. Maybe take some courses at a communitycollege. Get into yoga and meditation to work on my temper issues.… And stay apart of this pack for the sake of my mental well-being. Jacob—you can see howthat makes sense, right? I won’t bother you, you won’t bother me, everyone ishappy.
    • 235I turned back and started loping slowly toward the west.This is a bit much to deal with, Leah. Let me think about it, ’kay?Sure. Take your time.It took us longer to make the run back. I wasn’t trying for speed. I was just tryingto concentrate enough that I wouldn’t plow headfirst into a tree. Seth wasgrumbling a little bit in the back of my head, but I was able to ignore him. Heknew I was right. He wasn’t going to abandon his mom. He would go back to LaPush and protect the tribe like he should.But I couldn’t see Leah doing that. And that was just plain scary.A pack of the two of us? No matter the physical distance, I couldn’t imagine the…the intimacy of that situation. I wondered if she’d really thought it through, or ifshe was just desperate to stay free.Leah didn’t say anything as I chewed it over. It was like she was trying to provehow easy it would be if it was just us.We ran into a herd of black-tailed deer just as the sun was coming up,brightening the clouds a little bit behind us. Leah sighed internally but didn’thesitate. Her lunge was clean and efficient—graceful, even. She took down thelargest one, the buck, before the startled animal fully understood the danger.Not to be outdone, I swooped down on the next largest deer, snapping her neckbetween my jaws quickly, so she wouldn’t feel unnecessary pain. I could feelLeah’s disgust warring with her hunger, and I tried to make it easier for her byletting the wolf in me have my head. I’d lived all-wolf for long enough that I knewhow to be the animal completely, to see his way and think his way. I let thepractical instincts take over, letting her feel that, too. She hesitated for a second,but then, tentatively, she seemed to reach out with her mind and try to see myway. It felt very strange—our minds were more closely linked than they had everbeen before, because we both were trying to think together.Strange, but it helped her. Her teeth cut through the fur and skin of her kill’sshoulder, tearing away a thick slab of streaming flesh. Rather than wince away asher human thoughts wanted to, she let her wolf-self react instinctively. It waskind of a numbing thing, a thoughtless thing. It let her eat in peace.It was easy for me to do the same. And I was glad I hadn’t forgotten this. Thiswould be my life again soon.Was Leah going to be a part of that life? A week ago, I would’ve found that ideabeyond horrifying. I wouldn’t’ve been able to stand it. But I knew her better now.And, relieved from the constant pain, she wasn’t the same wolf. Not the same girl.
    • 236We ate together until we both were full.Thanks, she told me later as she was cleaning her muzzle and paws against thewet grass. I didn’t bother; it had just started to drizzle and we had to swim theriver again on our way back. I’d get clean enough. That wasn’t so bad, thinkingyour way.You’re welcome.Seth was dragging when we hit the perimeter. I told him to get some sleep; Leahand I would take over the patrol. Seth’s mind faded into unconsciousness justseconds later.You headed back to the bloodsuckers? Leah asked.Maybe.It’s hard for you to be there, but hard to stay away, too. I know how that feels.You know, Leah, you might want to think a little bit about the future, aboutwhat you really want to do. My head is not going to be the happiest place onearth. And you’ll have to suffer right along with me.She thought about how to answer me. Wow, this is going to sound bad. But,honestly, it will be easier to deal with your pain than face mine.Fair enough.I know it’s going to be bad for you, Jacob. I understand that—maybe better thanyou think. I don’t like her, but… she’s your Sam. She’s everything you want andeverything you can’t have.I couldn’t answer.I know it’s worse for you. At least Sam is happy. At least he’s alive and well. Ilove him enough that I want that. I want him to have what’s best for him. Shesighed. I just don’t want to stick around to watch.Do we need to talk about this?I think we do. Because I want you to know that I won’t make it worse for you.Hell, maybe I’ll even help. I wasn’t born a compassionless shrew. I used to besort of nice, you know.My memory doesn’t go that far back.We both laughed once.
    • 237I’m sorry about this, Jacob. I’m sorry you’re in pain. I’m sorry it’s getting worseand not better.Thanks, Leah.She thought about the things that were worse, the black pictures in my head,while I tried to tune her out without much success. She was able to look at themwith some distance, some perspective, and I had to admit that this was helpful. Icould imagine that maybe I would be able to see it that way, too, in a few years.She saw the funny side of the daily irritations that came from hanging out aroundvampires. She liked my ragging on Rosalie, chuckling internally and even runningthrough a few blonde jokes in her mind that I might be able to work in. But thenher thoughts turned serious, lingering on Rosalie’s face in a way that confusedme.You know what’s crazy? she asked.Well, almost everything is crazy right now. But what do you mean?That blond vampire you hate so much—I totally get her perspective.For a second I thought she was making a joke that was in very poor taste. Andthen, when I realized she was serious, the fury that ripped through me was hardto control. It was a good thing we’d spread out to run our watch. If she’d beenwithin biting distance…Hold up! Let me explain!Don’t want to hear it. I’m outta here.Wait! Wait! she pleaded as I tried to calm myself enough to phase back. C’mon,Jake!Leah, this isn’t really the best way to convince me that I want to spend moretime with you in the future.Yeesh! What an overreaction. You don’t even know what I’m talking about.So what are you talking about?And then she was suddenly the pain-hardened Leah from before. I’m talkingabout being a genetic dead end, Jacob.The vicious edge to her words left me floundering. I hadn’t expected to have myanger trumped.
    • 238I don’t understand.You would, if you weren’t just like the rest of them. If my “female stuff”—shethought the words with a hard, sarcastic tone—didn’t send you running for coverjust like any stupid male, so you could actually pay attention to what it allmeans.Oh.Yeah, so none of us like to think about that stuff with her. Who would? Of courseI remembered Leah’s panic that first month after she joined the pack—and Iremembered cringing away from it just like everyone else. Because she couldn’tbe pregnant—not unless there was some really freaky religious immaculate crapgoing on. She hadn’t been with anyone since Sam. And then, when the weeksdragged on and nothing turned into more nothing, she’d realized that her bodywasn’t following the normal patterns anymore. The horror—what was she now?Had her body changed because she’d become a werewolf? Or had she become awerewolf because her body was wrong? The only female werewolf in the historyof forever. Was that because she wasn’t as female as she should be?None of us had wanted to deal with that breakdown. Obviously, it wasn’t like wecould empathize.You know why Sam thinks we imprint, she thought, calmer now.Sure. To carry on the line.Right. To make a bunch of new little werewolves. Survival of the species, geneticoverride. You’re drawn to the person who gives you the best chance to pass onthe wolf gene.I waited for her to tell me where she was going with this.If I was any good for that, Sam would have been drawn to me.Her pain was enough that I broke stride under it.But I’m not. There’s something wrong with me. I don’t have the ability to passon the gene, apparently, despite my stellar bloodlines. So I become a freak—thegirlie-wolf—good for nothing else. I’m a genetic dead end and we both know it.We do not, I argued with her. That’s just Sam’s theory. Imprinting happens, butwe don’t know why. Billy thinks it’s something else.I know, I know. He thinks you’re imprinting to make stronger wolves. Becauseyou and Sam are such humongous monsters—bigger than our fathers. But
    • 239either way, I’m still not a candidate. I’m… I’m menopausal. I’m twenty years oldand I’m menopausal.Ugh. I so didn’t want to have this conversation. You don’t know that, Leah. It’sprobably just the whole frozen-in-time thing. When you quit your wolf and startgetting older again, I’m sure things will… er… pick right back up.I might think that—except that no one’s imprinting on me, notwithstanding myimpressive pedigree. You know, she added thoughtfully, if you weren’t around,Seth would probably have the best claim to being Alpha—through his blood, atleast. Of course, no one would ever consider me. . . .You really want to imprint, or be imprinted on, or whichever? I demanded.What’s wrong with going out and falling in love like a normal person, Leah?Imprinting is just another way of getting your choices taken away from you.Sam, Jared, Paul, Quil… they don’t seem to mind.None of them have a mind of their own.You don’t want to imprint?Hell, no!That’s just because you’re already in love with her. That would go away, youknow, if you imprinted. You wouldn’t have to hurt over her anymore.Do you want to forget the way you feel about Sam?She deliberated for a moment. I think I do.I sighed. She was in a healthier place than I was.But back to my original point, Jacob. I understand why your blond vampire isso cold—in the figurative sense. She’s focused. She’s got her eyes on the prize,right? Because you always want the very most what you can never, ever have.You would act like Rosalie? You would murder someone—because that’s whatshe’s doing, making sure no one interferes with Bella’s death—you would do thatto have a baby? Since when are you a breeder?I just want the options I don’t have, Jacob. Maybe, if there was nothing wrongwith me, I would never give it a thought.You would kill for that? I demanded, not letting her escape my question.
    • 240That’s not what she’s doing. I think it’s more like she’s living vicariously. And… ifBella asked me to help her with this… She paused, considering. Even though Idon’t think too much of her, I’d probably do the same as the bloodsucker.A loud snarl ripped through my teeth.Because, if it was turned around, I’d want Bella to do that for me. And so wouldRosalie. We’d both do it her way.Ugh! You’re as bad as they are!That’s the funny thing about knowing you can’t have something. It makes youdesperate.And… that’s my limit. Right there. This conversation is over.Fine.It wasn’t enough that she’d agreed to stop. I wanted a stronger termination thanthat.I was only about a mile from where I’d left my clothes, so I phased back to humanand walked. I didn’t think about our conversation. Not because there wasn’tanything to think about, but because I couldn’t stand it. I would not see it thatway—but it was harder to keep from doing that when Leah had put the thoughtsand emotions straight into my head.Yeah, I wasn’t running with her when this was finished. She could go bemiserable in La Push. One little Alpha command before I left for good wasn’tgoing to kill anybody.It was real early when I got to the house. Bella was probably still asleep. I figuredI’d poke my head in, see what was going on, give ’em the green light to gohunting, and then find a patch of grass soft enough to sleep on while human. Iwasn’t phasing back until Leah was asleep.But there was a lot of low mumbling going on inside the house, so maybe Bellawasn’t sleeping. And then I heard the machinery sound from upstairs again—theX-ray? Great. It looked like day four on the countdown was starting off with abang.Alice opened the door for me before I could walk in.She nodded. “Hey, wolf.”“Hey, shortie. What’s going on upstairs?” The big room was empty—all themurmurs were on the second floor.
    • 241She shrugged her pointy little shoulders. “Maybe another break.” She tried to saythe words casually, but I could see the flames in the very back of her eyes. Edwardand I weren’t the only ones who were burning over this. Alice loved Bella, too.“Another rib?” I asked hoarsely.“No. Pelvis this time.”Funny how it kept hitting me, like each new thing was a surprise. When was Igoing to stop being surprised? Each new disaster seemed kinda obvious inhindsight.Alice was staring at my hands, watching them tremble.Then we were listening to Rosalie’s voice upstairs.“See, I told you I didn’t hear a crack. You need your ears checked, Edward.”There was no answer.Alice made a face. “Edward’s going to end up ripping Rose into small pieces, Ithink. I’m surprised she doesn’t see that. Or maybe she thinks Emmett will beable to stop him.”“I’ll take Emmett,” I offered. “You can help Edward with the ripping part.”Alice half-smiled.The procession came down the stairs then—Edward had Bella this time. She wasgripping her cup of blood in both hands, and her face was white. I could see that,though he compensated for every tiny movement of his body to keep from jostlingher, she was hurting.“Jake,” she whispered, and she smiled through the pain.I stared at her, saying nothing.Edward placed Bella carefully on her couch and sat on the floor by her head. Iwondered briefly why they didn’t leave her upstairs, and then decided at oncethat it must be Bella’s idea. She’d want to act like things were normal, avoid thehospital setup. And he was humoring her. Naturally.Carlisle came down slowly, the last one, his face creased with worry. It made himlook old enough to be a doctor for once.“Carlisle,” I said. “We went halfway to Seattle. There’s no sign of the pack. You’regood to go.”
    • 242“Thank you, Jacob. This is good timing. There’s much that we need.” His blackeyes flickered to the cup that Bella was holding so tight.“Honestly, I think you’re safe to take more than three. I’m pretty positive thatSam is concentrating on La Push.”Carlisle nodded in agreement. It surprised me how willingly he took my advice.“If you think so. Alice, Esme, Jasper, and I will go. Then Alice can take Emmettand Rosa—”“Not a chance,” Rosalie hissed. “Emmett can go with you now.”“You should hunt,” Carlisle said in a gentle voice.His tone didn’t soften hers. “I’ll hunt when he does,” she growled, jerking herhead toward Edward and then flipping her hair back.Carlisle sighed.Jasper and Emmett were down the stairs in a flash, and Alice joined them by theglass back door in the same second. Esme flitted to Alice’s side.Carlisle put his hand on my arm. The icy touch did not feel good, but I didn’t jerkaway. I held still, half in surprise, and half because I didn’t want to hurt hisfeelings.“Thank you,” he said again, and then he darted out the door with the other four.My eyes followed them as they flew across the lawn and then disappeared before Itook another breath. Their needs must have been more urgent than I’d imagined.There was no sound for a minute. I could feel someone glaring at me, and I knewwho it would be. I’d been planning to take off and get some Z’s, but the chance toruin Rosalie’s morning seemed too good to pass up.So I sauntered over to the armchair next to the one Rosalie had and settled in,sprawling out so that my head was tilted toward Bella and my left foot was nearRosalie’s face.“Ew. Someone put the dog out,” she murmured, wrinkling her nose.“Have you heard this one, Psycho? How do a blonde’s brain cells die?”She didn’t say anything.“Well?” I asked. “Do you know the punch line or not?”She looked pointedly at the TV and ignored me.
    • 243“Has she heard it?” I asked Edward.There was no humor on his tense face—he didn’t move his eyes from Bella. But hesaid, “No.”“Awesome. So you’ll enjoy this, bloodsucker—a blonde’s brain cells die alone.”Rosalie still didn’t look at me. “I have killed a hundred times more often than youhave, you disgusting beast. Don’t forget that.”“Someday, Beauty Queen, you’re going to get tired of just threatening me. I’mreally looking forward to that.”“Enough, Jacob,” Bella said.I looked down, and she was scowling at me. It looked like yesterday’s good moodwas long gone.Well, I didn’t want to bug her. “You want me to take off?” I offered.Before I could hope—or fear—that she’d finally gotten tired of me, she blinked,and her frown disappeared. She seemed totally shocked that I would come to thatconclusion. “No! Of course not.”I sighed, and I heard Edward sigh very quietly, too. I knew he wished she’d getover me, too. Too bad he’d never ask her to do anything that might make herunhappy.“You look tired,” Bella commented.“Dead beat,” I admitted.“I’d like to beat you dead,” Rosalie muttered, too low for Bella to hear.I just slumped deeper into the chair, getting comfortable. My bare foot dangledcloser to Rosalie, and she stiffened. After a few minutes Bella asked Rosalie for arefill. I felt the wind as Rosalie blew upstairs to get her some more blood. It wasreally quiet. Might as well take a nap, I figured.And then Edward said, “Did you say something?” in a puzzled tone. Strange.Because no one had said anything, and because Edward’s hearing was as good asmine, and he should have known that.He was staring at Bella, and she was staring back. They both looked confused.“Me?” she asked after a second. “I didn’t say anything.”
    • 244He moved onto his knees, leaning forward over her, his expression suddenlyintense in a whole different way. His black eyes focused on her face.“What are you thinking about right now?”She stared at him blankly. “Nothing. What’s going on?”“What were you thinking about a minute ago?” he asked.“Just… Esme’s island. And feathers.”Sounded like total gibberish to me, but then she blushed, and I figured I wasbetter off not knowing.“Say something else,” he whispered.“Like what? Edward, what’s going on?”His face changed again, and he did something that made my mouth fall open witha pop. I heard a gasp behind me, and I knew that Rosalie was back, and just asflabbergasted as I was.Edward, very lightly, put both of his hands against her huge, round stomach.“The f—” He swallowed. “It… the baby likes the sound of your voice.”There was one short beat of total silence. I could not move a muscle, even toblink. Then—“Holy crow, you can hear him!” Bella shouted. In the next second, she winced.Edward’s hand moved to the top peak of her belly and gently rubbed the spotwhere it must have kicked her.“Shh,” he murmured. “You startled it… him.”Her eyes got all wide and full of wonder. She patted the side of her stomach.“Sorry, baby.”Edward was listening hard, his head tilted toward the bulge.“What’s he thinking now?” she demanded eagerly.“It… he or she, is . . .” He paused and looked up into her eyes. His eyes were filledwith a similar awe—only his were more careful and grudging. “He’s happy,”Edward said in an incredulous voice.
    • 245Her breath caught, and it was impossible not to see the fanatical gleam in hereyes. The adoration and the devotion. Big, fat tears overflowed her eyes and ransilently down her face and over her smiling lips.As he stared at her, his face was not frightened or angry or burning or any of theother expressions he’d worn since their return. He was marveling with her.“Of course you’re happy, pretty baby, of course you are,” she crooned, rubbingher stomach while the tears washed her cheeks. “How could you not be, all safeand warm and loved? I love you so much, little EJ, of course you’re happy.”“What did you call him?” Edward asked curiously.She blushed again. “I sort of named him. I didn’t think you would want… well,you know.”“EJ?”“Your father’s name was Edward, too.”“Yes, it was. What—?” He paused and then said, “Hmm.”“What?”“He likes my voice, too.”“Of course he does.” Her tone was almost gloating now. “You have the mostbeautiful voice in the universe. Who wouldn’t love it?”“Do you have a backup plan?” Rosalie asked then, leaning over the back of thesofa with the same wondering, gloating look on her face that was on Bella’s.“What if he’s a she?”Bella wiped the back of her hand under her wet eyes. “I kicked a few thingsaround. Playing with Renée and Esme. I was thinking… Ruh-nez-may.”“Ruhnezmay?”“R-e-n-e-s-m-e-e. Too weird?”“No, I like it,” Rosalie assured her. Their heads were close together, gold andmahogany. “It’s beautiful. And one of a kind, so that fits.”“I still think he’s an Edward.”Edward was staring off into space, his face blank as he listened.
    • 246“What?” Bella asked, her face just glowing away. “What’s he thinking now?”At first he didn’t answer, and then—shocking all the rest of us again, threedistinct and separate gasps—he laid his ear tenderly against her belly.“He loves you,” Edward whispered, sounding dazed. “He absolutely adores you.”In that moment, I knew that I was alone. All alone.I wanted to kick myself when I realized how much I’d been counting on thatloathsome vampire. How stupid—as if you could ever trust a leech! Of course hewould betray me in the end.I’d counted on him to be on my side. I’d counted on him to suffer more than Isuffered. And, most of all, I’d counted on him to hate that revolting thing killingBella more than I hated it.I’d trusted him with that.Yet now they were together, the two of them bent over the budding, invisiblemonster with their eyes lit up like a happy family.And I was all alone with my hatred and the pain that was so bad it was like beingtortured. Like being dragged slowly across a bed of razor blades. Pain so badyou’d take death with a smile just to get away from it.The heat unlocked my frozen muscles, and I was on my feet.All three of their heads snapped up, and I watched my pain ripple acrossEdward’s face as he trespassed in my head again.“Ahh,” he choked.I didn’t know what I was doing; I stood there, trembling, ready to bolt for the veryfirst escape that I could think of.Moving like the strike of a snake, Edward darted to a small end table and rippedsomething from the drawer there. He tossed it at me, and I caught the objectreflexively.“Go, Jacob. Get away from here.” He didn’t say it harshly—he threw the words atme like they were a life preserver. He was helping me find the escape I was dyingfor.The object in my hand was a set of car keys.
    • 24717. WHAT DO I LOOK LIKE? THE WIZARD OF OZ? YOU NEED A BRAIN? YOU NEED A HEART? GOAHEAD. TAKE MINE. TAKE EVERYTHING I HAVE.I sort of had a plan as I ran to the Cullens’ garage. The second part of it wastotaling the bloodsucker’s car on my way back.So I was at a loss when I mashed the button on the keyless remote, and it was nothis Volvo that beeped and flashed its lights for me. It was another car—a standouteven in the long line of vehicles that were mostly all drool-worthy in their ownways.Did he actually mean to give me the keys to an Aston Martin Vanquish, or wasthat an accident?I didn’t pause to think about it, or if this would change that second part of myplan. I just threw myself into the silky leather seat and cranked the engine whilemy knees were still crunched up under the steering wheel. The sound of themotor’s purr might have made me moan another day, but right now it was all Icould do to concentrate enough to put it in drive.I found the seat release and shoved myself back as my foot rammed the pedaldown. The car felt almost airborne as it leaped forward.It only took seconds to race through the tight, winding drive. The car respondedto me like my thoughts were steering rather than my hands. As I blew out of thegreen tunnel and onto the highway, I caught a fleeting glimpse of Leah’s gray facepeering uneasily through the ferns.For half a second, I wondered what she’d think, and then I realized that I didn’tcare.I turned south, because I had no patience today for ferries or traffic or anythingelse that meant I might have to lift my foot off the pedal.In a sick way, it was my lucky day. If by lucky you meant taking a well-traveledhighway at two hundred without so much as seeing one cop, even in the thirty-mile-an-hour speed-trap towns. What a letdown. A little chase action might havebeen nice, not to mention that the license plate info would bring the heat downon the leech. Sure, he’d buy his way out of it, but it might have been just a littleinconvenient for him.The only sign of surveillance I came across was just a hint of dark brown furflitting through the woods, running parallel to me for a few miles on the southside of Forks. Quil, it looked like. He must have seen me, too, because he
    • 248disappeared after a minute without raising an alarm. Again, I almost wonderedwhat his story would be before I remembered that I didn’t care.I raced around the long U-shaped highway, heading for the biggest city I couldfind. That was the first part of my plan.It seemed to take forever, probably because I was still on the razor blades, but itactually didn’t even take two hours before I was driving north into the undefinedsprawl that was part Tacoma and part Seattle. I slowed down then, because Ireally wasn’t trying to kill any innocent bystanders.This was a stupid plan. It wasn’t going to work. But, as I’d searched my head forany way at all to get away from the pain, what Leah’d said today had popped inthere.That would go away, you know, if you imprinted. You wouldn’t have to hurtover her anymore.Seemed like maybe getting your choices taken away from you wasn’t the veryworst thing in the world. Maybe feeling like this was the very worst thing in theworld.But I’d seen all the girls in La Push and up on the Makah rez and in Forks. Ineeded a wider hunting range.So how do you look for a random soul mate in a crowd? Well, first, I needed acrowd. So I tooled around, looking for a likely spot. I passed a couple of malls,which probably would’ve been pretty good places to find girls my age, but Icouldn’t make myself stop. Did I want to imprint on some girl who hung out in amall all day?I kept going north, and it got more and more crowded. Eventually, I found a bigpark full of kids and families and skateboards and bikes and kites and picnics andthe whole bit. I hadn’t noticed till now—it was a nice day. Sun and all that. Peoplewere out celebrating the blue sky.I parked across two handicapped spots—just begging for a ticket—and joined thecrowd.I walked around for what felt like hours. Long enough that the sun changed sidesin the sky. I stared into the face of every girl who passed anywhere near me,making myself really look, noticing who was pretty and who had blue eyes andwho looked good in braces and who had way too much makeup on. I tried to findsomething interesting about each face, so that I would know for sure that I’dreally tried. Things like: This one had a really straight nose; that one should pullher hair out of her eyes; this one could do lipstick ads if the rest of her face was asperfect as her mouth. . . .
    • 249Sometimes they stared back. Sometimes they looked scared—like they werethinking, Who is this big freak glaring at me? Sometimes I thought they lookedkind of interested, but maybe that was just my ego running wild.Either way, nothing. Even when I met the eyes of the girl who was—no contest—the hottest girl in the park and probably in the city, and she stared right back witha speculation that looked like interest, I felt nothing. Just the same desperatedrive to find a way out of the pain.As time went on, I started noticing all the wrong things. Bella things. This one’shair was the same color. That one’s eyes were sort of shaped the same. This one’scheekbones cut across her face in just the same way. That one had the same littlecrease between her eyes—which made me wonder what she was worrying about. ...That was when I gave up. Because it was beyond stupid to think that I had pickedexactly the right place and time and I was going to simply walk into my soul matejust because I was so desperate to.It wouldn’t make sense to find her here, anyway. If Sam was right, the best placeto find my genetic match would be in La Push. And, clearly, no one there fit thebill. If Billy was right, then who knew? What made for a stronger wolf?I wandered back to the car and then slumped against the hood and played withthe keys.Maybe I was what Leah thought she was. Some kind of dead end that shouldn’t bepassed on to another generation. Or maybe it was just that my life was a big, crueljoke, and there was no escape from the punch line.“Hey, you okay? Hello? You there, with the stolen car.”It took me a second to realize that the voice was talking to me, and then anothersecond to decide to raise my head.A familiar-looking girl was staring at me, her expression kind of anxious. I knewwhy I recognized her face—I’d already catalogued this one. Light red-gold hair,fair skin, a few gold-colored freckles sprinkled across her cheeks and nose, andeyes the color of cinnamon.“If you’re feeling that remorseful over boosting the car,” she said, smiling so thata dimple popped out in her chin, “you could always turn yourself in.”“It’s borrowed, not stolen,” I snapped. My voice sounded horrible—like I’d beencrying or something. Embarrassing.“Sure, that’ll hold up in court.”
    • 250I glowered. “You need something?”“Not really. I was kidding about the car, you know. It’s just that… you look reallyupset about something. Oh, hey, I’m Lizzie.” She held out her hand.I looked at it until she let it fall.“Anyway…,” she said awkwardly, “I was just wondering if I could help. Seemedlike you were looking for someone before.” She gestured toward the park andshrugged.“Yeah.”She waited.I sighed. “I don’t need any help. She’s not here.”“Oh. Sorry.”“Me, too,” I muttered.I looked at the girl again. Lizzie. She was pretty. Nice enough to try to help agrouchy stranger who must seem nuts. Why couldn’t she be the one? Why dideverything have to be so freaking complicated? Nice girl, pretty, and sort offunny. Why not?“This is a beautiful car,” she said. “It’s really a shame they’re not making themanymore. I mean, the Vantage’s body styling is gorgeous, too, but there’s justsomething about the Vanquish. . . .”Nice girl who knew cars. Wow. I stared at her face harder, wishing I knew how tomake it work. C’mon, Jake—imprint already.“How’s it drive?” she asked.“Like you wouldn’t believe,” I told her.She grinned her one-dimple smile, clearly pleased to have dragged a halfway civilresponse out of me, and I gave her a reluctant smile back.But her smile did nothing about the sharp, cutting blades that raked up and downmy body. No matter how much I wanted it to, my life was not going to cometogether like that.I wasn’t in that healthier place where Leah was headed. I wasn’t going to be ableto fall in love like a normal person. Not when I was bleeding over someone else.Maybe—if it was ten years from now and Bella’s heart was long dead and I’d
    • 251hauled myself through the whole grieving process and come out in one pieceagain—maybe then I could offer Lizzie a ride in a fast car and talk makes andmodels and get to know something about her and see if I liked her as a person.But that wasn’t going to happen now.Magic wasn’t going to save me. I was just going to have to take the torture like aman. Suck it up.Lizzie waited, maybe hoping I was going to offer her that ride. Or maybe not.“I’d better get this car back to the guy I borrowed it from,” I muttered.She smiled again. “Glad to hear you’re going straight.”“Yeah, you convinced me.”She watched me get in the car, still sort of concerned. I probably looked likesomeone who was about to drive off a cliff. Which maybe I would’ve, if that kindof move’d work for a werewolf. She waved once, her eyes trailing after the car.At first, I drove more sanely on the way back. I wasn’t in a rush. I didn’t want togo where I was going. Back to that house, back to that forest. Back to the pain I’drun from. Back to being absolutely alone with it.Okay, that was melodramatic. I wouldn’t be all alone, but that was a bad thing.Leah and Seth would have to suffer with me. I was glad Seth wouldn’t have tosuffer long. Kid didn’t deserve to have his peace of mind ruined. Leah didn’t,either, but at least it was something she understood. Nothing new about pain forLeah.I sighed big as I thought about what Leah wanted from me, because I knew nowthat she was going to get it. I was still pissed at her, but I couldn’t ignore the factthat I could make her life easier. And—now that I knew her better—I thought shewould probably do this for me, if our positions were reversed.It would be interesting, at the very least, and strange, too, to have Leah as acompanion—as a friend. We were going to get under each other’s skin a lot, thatwas for sure. She wouldn’t be one to let me wallow, but I thought that was a goodthing. I’d probably need someone to kick my butt now and then. But when itcame right down to it, she was really the only friend who had any chance ofunderstanding what I was going through now.I thought of the hunt this morning, and how close our minds had been for thatone moment in time. It hadn’t been a bad thing. Different. A little scary, a littleawkward. But also nice in a weird way.I didn’t have to be all alone.
    • 252And I knew Leah was strong enough to face with me the months that werecoming. Months and years. It made me tired to think about it. I felt like I wasstaring out across an ocean that I was going to have to swim from shore to shorebefore I could rest again.So much time coming, and then so little time before it started. Before I was flunginto that ocean. Three and a half more days, and here I was, wasting that little bitof time I had.I started driving too fast again.I saw Sam and Jared, one on either side of the road like sentinels, as I raced upthe road toward Forks. They were well hidden in the thick branches, but I wasexpecting them, and I knew what to look for. I nodded as I blew past them, notbothering to wonder what they made of my day trip.I nodded to Leah and Seth, too, as I cruised up the Cullens’ driveway. It wasstarting to get dark, and the clouds were thick on this side of the sound, but I sawtheir eyes glitter in the glow of the headlights. I would explain to them later.There’d be plenty of time for that.It was a surprise to find Edward waiting for me in the garage. I hadn’t seen himaway from Bella in days. I could tell from his face that nothing bad had happenedto her. In fact, he looked more peaceful than before. My stomach tightened as Iremembered where that peace came from.It was too bad that—with all my brooding—I’d forgotten to wreck the car. Oh well.I probably wouldn’t have been able to stand hurting this car, anyway. Maybe he’dguessed as much, and that’s why he’d lent it to me in the first place.“A few things, Jacob,” he said as soon as I cut the engine.I took a deep breath and held it for a minute. Then, slowly, I got out of the carand threw the keys to him.“Thanks for the loan,” I said sourly. Apparently, it would have to be repaid. “Whatdo you want now?”“Firstly… I know how averse you are to using your authority with your pack, but .. .”I blinked, astonished that he would even dream of starting in on this one.“What?”“If you can’t or won’t control Leah, then I—”“Leah?” I interrupted, speaking through my teeth. “What happened?”
    • 253Edward’s face was hard. “She came up to see why you’d left so abruptly. I tried toexplain. I suppose it might not have come out right.”“What did she do?”“She phased to her human form and—”“Really?” I interrupted again, shocked this time. I couldn’t process that. Leahletting her guard down right in the mouth of the enemy’s lair?“She wanted to… speak to Bella.”“To Bella?”Edward got all hissy then. “I won’t let Bella be upset like that again. I don’t carehow justified Leah thinks she is! I didn’t hurt her—of course I wouldn’t—but I’llthrow her out of the house if it happens again. I’ll launch her right across theriver—”“Hold on. What did she say?” None of this was making any sense.Edward took a deep breath, composing himself. “Leah was unnecessarily harsh.I’m not going to pretend that I understand why Bella is unable to let go of you,but I do know that she does not behave this way to hurt you. She suffers a greatdeal over the pain she’s inflicting on you, and on me, by asking you to stay. WhatLeah said was uncalled for. Bella’s been crying—”“Wait—Leah was yelling at Bella about me?”He nodded one sharp nod. “You were quite vehemently championed.”Whoa. “I didn’t ask her to do that.”“I know.”I rolled my eyes. Of course he knew. He knew everything.But that was really something about Leah. Who would have believed it? Leahwalking into the bloodsuckers’ place human to complain about how I was beingtreated.“I can’t promise to control Leah,” I told him. “I won’t do that. But I’ll talk to her,okay? And I don’t think there’ll be a repeat. Leah’s not one to hold back, so sheprobably got it all off her chest today.”“I would say so.”
    • 254“Anyway, I’ll talk to Bella about it, too. She doesn’t need to feel bad. This one’s onme.”“I already told her that.”“Of course you did. Is she okay?”“She’s sleeping now. Rose is with her.”So the psycho was “Rose” now. He’d completely crossed over to the dark side.He ignored that thought, continuing with a more complete answer to myquestion. “She’s… better in some ways. Aside from Leah’s tirade and the resultingguilt.”Better. Because Edward was hearing the monster and everything was all lovey-dovey now. Fantastic.“It’s a bit more than that,” he murmured. “Now that I can make out the child’sthoughts, it’s apparent that he or she has remarkably developed mental facilities.He can understand us, to an extent.”My mouth fell open. “Are you serious?”“Yes. He seems to have a vague sense of what hurts her now. He’s trying to avoidthat, as much as possible. He… loves her. Already.”I stared at Edward, feeling sort of like my eyes might pop out of their sockets.Underneath that disbelief, I could see right away that this was the critical factor.This was what had changed Edward—that the monster had convinced him of thislove. He couldn’t hate what loved Bella. It was probably why he couldn’t hate me,either. There was a big difference, though. I wasn’t killing her.Edward went on, acting like he hadn’t heard all that. “The progress, I believe, ismore than we’d judged. When Carlisle returns—”“They’re not back?” I cut in sharply. I thought of Sam and Jared, watching theroad. Would they get curious as to what was going on?“Alice and Jasper are. Carlisle sent all the blood he was able to acquire, but itwasn’t as much as he was hoping for—Bella will use up this supply in another daythe way her appetite has grown. Carlisle stayed to try another source. I don’tthink that’s necessary now, but he wants to be covered for any eventuality.”“Why isn’t it necessary? If she needs more?”
    • 255I could tell he was watching and listening to my reaction carefully as heexplained. “I’m trying to persuade Carlisle to deliver the baby as soon as he isback.”“What?”“The child seems to be attempting to avoid rough movements, but it’s difficult.He’s become too big. It’s madness to wait, when he’s clearly developed beyondwhat Carlisle had guessed. Bella’s too fragile to delay.”I kept getting my legs knocked out from under me. First, counting on Edward’shatred of the thing so much. Now, I’d realized that I thought of those four days asa sure thing. I’d banked on them.The endless ocean of grief that waited stretched out before me.I tried to catch my breath.Edward waited. I stared at his face while I recovered, recognizing another changethere.“You think she’s going to make it,” I whispered.“Yes. That was the other thing I wanted to talk to you about.”I couldn’t say anything. After a minute, he went on.“Yes,” he said again. “Waiting, as we have been, for the child to be ready, that wasinsanely dangerous. At any moment it could have been too late. But if we’reproactive about this, if we act quickly, I see no reason why it should not go well.Knowing the child’s mind is unbelievably helpful. Thankfully, Bella and Roseagree with me. Now that I’ve convinced them it’s safe for the child if we proceed,there’s nothing to keep this from working.”“When will Carlisle be back?” I asked, still whispering. I hadn’t got my breathback yet.“By noon tomorrow.”My knees buckled. I had to grab the car to hold myself up. Edward reached outlike he was offering support, but then he thought better of it and dropped hishands.“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I am truly sorry for the pain this causes you, Jacob.Though you hate me, I must admit that I don’t feel the same about you. I think ofyou as a… a brother in many ways. A comrade in arms, at the very least. I regretyour suffering more than you realize. But Bella is going to survive”—when he said
    • 256that his voice was fierce, even violent—“and I know that’s what really matters toyou.”He was probably right. It was hard to tell. My head was spinning.“So I hate to do this now, while you’re already dealing with too much, but, clearly,there is little time. I have to ask you for something—to beg, if I must.”“I don’t have anything left,” I choked out.He lifted his hand again, as if to put it on my shoulder, but then let it drop likebefore and sighed.“I know how much you have given,” he said quietly. “But this is something you dohave, and only you. I’m asking this of the true Alpha, Jacob. I’m asking this ofEphraim’s heir.”I was way past being able to respond.“I want your permission to deviate from what we agreed to in our treaty withEphraim. I want you to grant us an exception. I want your permission to save herlife. You know I’ll do it anyway, but I don’t want to break faith with you if there isany way to avoid it. We never intended to go back on our word, and we don’t do itlightly now. I want your understanding, Jacob, because you know exactly why wedo this. I want the alliance between our families to survive when this is over.”I tried to swallow. Sam, I thought. It’s Sam you want.“No. Sam’s authority is assumed. It belongs to you. You’ll never take it from him,but no one can rightfully agree to what I’m asking except for you.”It’s not my decision.“It is, Jacob, and you know it. Your word on this will condemn us or absolve us.Only you can give this to me.”I can’t think. I don’t know.“We don’t have much time.” He glanced back toward the house.No, there was no time. My few days had become a few hours.I don’t know. Let me think. Just give me a minute here, okay?“Yes.”
    • 257I started walking to the house, and he followed. Crazy how easy it was, walkingthrough the dark with a vampire right beside me. It didn’t feel unsafe, or evenuncomfortable, really. It felt like walking next to anybody. Well, anybody whosmelled bad.There was a movement in the brush at the edge of the big lawn, and then a lowwhimper. Seth shrugged through the ferns and loped over to us.“Hey, kid,” I muttered.He dipped his head, and I patted his shoulder.“S’all cool,” I lied. “I’ll tell you about it later. Sorry to take off on you like that.”He grinned at me.“Hey, tell your sister to back off now, okay? Enough.”Seth nodded once.I shoved against his shoulder this time. “Get back to work. I’ll spell you in a bit.”Seth leaned against me, shoving back, and then he galloped into the trees.“He has one of the purest, sincerest, kindest minds I’ve ever heard,” Edwardmurmured when he was out of sight. “You’re lucky to have his thoughts to share.”“I know that,” I grunted.We started toward the house, and both of our heads snapped up when we heardthe sound of someone sucking through a straw. Edward was in a hurry then. Hedarted up the porch stairs and was gone.“Bella, love, I thought you were sleeping,” I heard him say. “I’m sorry, I wouldn’thave left.”“Don’t worry. I just got so thirsty—it woke me up. It’s a good thing Carlisle isbringing more. This kid is going to need it when he gets out of me.”“True. That’s a good point.”“I wonder if he’ll want anything else,” she mused.“I suppose we’ll find out.”I walked through the door.
    • 258Alice said, “Finally,” and Bella’s eyes flashed to me. That infuriating, irresistiblesmile broke across her face for one second. Then it faltered, and her face fell. Herlips puckered, like she was trying not to cry.I wanted to punch Leah right in her stupid mouth.“Hey, Bells,” I said quickly. “How ya doing?”“I’m fine,” she said.“Big day today, huh? Lots of new stuff.”“You don’t have to do that, Jacob.”“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said, going to sit on the arm of the sofaby her head. Edward had the floor there already.She gave me a reproachful look. “I’m so s—” she started to say.I pinched her lips together between my thumb and finger.“Jake,” she mumbled, trying to pull my hand away. Her attempt was so weak itwas hard to believe that she was really trying.I shook my head. “You can talk when you’re not being stupid.”“Fine, I won’t say it,” it sounded like she mumbled.I pulled my hand away.“Sorry!” she finished quickly, and then grinned.I rolled my eyes and then smiled back at her.When I stared into her eyes, I saw everything that I’d been looking for in thepark.Tomorrow, she’d be someone else. But hopefully alive, and that was whatcounted, right? She’d look at me with the same eyes, sort of. Smile with the samelips, almost. She’d still know me better than anyone who didn’t have full access tothe inside of my head.Leah might be an interesting companion, maybe even a true friend—someonewho would stand up for me. But she wasn’t my best friend the way that Bella was.Aside from the impossible love I felt for Bella, there was also that other bond, andit ran bone deep.
    • 259Tomorrow, she’d be my enemy. Or she’d be my ally. And, apparently, thatdistinction was up to me.I sighed.Fine! I thought, giving up the very last thing I had to give. It made me feel hollow.Go ahead. Save her. As Ephraim’s heir, you have my permission, my word, thatthis will not violate the treaty. The others will just have to blame me. You wereright—they can’t deny that it’s my right to agree to this.“Thank you.” Edward’s whisper was low enough that Bella didn’t hear anything.But the words were so fervent that, from the corner of my eye, I saw the othervampires turning to stare.“So,” Bella asked, working to be casual. “How was your day?”“Great. Went for a drive. Hung out in the park.”“Sounds nice.”“Sure, sure.”Suddenly, she made a face. “Rose?” she asked.I heard Blondie chuckle. “Again?”“I think I’ve drunk two gallons in the last hour,” Bella explained.Edward and I both got out of the way while Rosalie came to lift Bella from thecouch and take her to the bathroom.“Can I walk?” Bella asked. “My legs are so stiff.”“Are you sure?” Edward asked.“Rose’ll catch me if I trip over my feet. Which could happen pretty easily, since Ican’t see them.”Rosalie set Bella carefully on her feet, keeping her hands right at Bella’sshoulders. Bella stretched her arms out in front of her, wincing a little.“That feels good,” she sighed. “Ugh, but I’m huge.”She really was. Her stomach was its own continent.“One more day,” she said, and patted her stomach.
    • 260I couldn’t help the pain that shot through me in a sudden, stabbing burst, but Itried to keep it off my face. I could hide it for one more day, right?“All righty, then. Whoops—oh, no!”The cup Bella had left on the sofa tumbled to one side, the dark red blood spillingout onto the pale fabric.Automatically, though three other hands beat her there, Bella bent over, reachingout to catch it.There was the strangest, muffled ripping sound from the center of her body.“Oh!” she gasped.And then she went totally limp, slumping toward the floor. Rosalie caught her inthe same instant, before she could fall. Edward was there, too, hands out, themess on the sofa forgotten.“Bella?” he asked, and then his eyes unfocused, and panic shot across hisfeatures.A half second later, Bella screamed.It was not just a scream, it was a blood-curdling shriek of agony. The horrifyingsound cut off with a gurgle, and her eyes rolled back into her head. Her bodytwitched, arched in Rosalie’s arms, and then Bella vomited a fountain of blood.
    • 261 18. THERE ARE NO WORDS FOR THIS.Bella’s body, streaming with red, started to twitch, jerking around in Rosalie’sarms like she was being electrocuted. All the while, her face was blank—unconscious. It was the wild thrashing from inside the center of her body thatmoved her. As she convulsed, sharp snaps and cracks kept time with the spasms.Rosalie and Edward were frozen for the shortest half second, and then theybroke. Rosalie whipped Bella’s body into her arms, and, shouting so fast it washard to separate the individual words, she and Edward shot up the staircase tothe second floor.I sprinted after them.“Morphine!” Edward yelled at Rosalie.“Alice—get Carlisle on the phone!” Rosalie screeched.The room I followed them to looked like an emergency ward set up in the middleof a library. The lights were brilliant and white. Bella was on a table under theglare, skin ghostly in the spotlight. Her body flopped, a fish on the sand. Rosaliepinned Bella down, yanking and ripping her clothes out of the way, while Edwardstabbed a syringe into her arm.How many times had I imagined her naked? Now I couldn’t look. I was afraid tohave these memories in my head.“What’s happening, Edward?”“He’s suffocating!”“The placenta must have detached!”Somewhere in this, Bella came around. She responded to their words with ashriek that clawed at my eardrums.“Get him OUT!” she screamed. “He can’t BREATHE! Do it NOW!”I saw the red spots pop out when her scream broke the blood vessels in her eyes.“The morphine—,” Edward growled.“NO! NOW—!” Another gush of blood choked off what she was shrieking. He heldher head up, desperately trying to clear her mouth so that she could breatheagain.
    • 262Alice darted into the room and clipped a little blue earpiece under Rosalie’s hair.Then Alice backed away, her gold eyes wide and burning, while Rosalie hissedfrantically into the phone.In the bright light, Bella’s skin seemed more purple and black than it was white.Deep red was seeping beneath the skin over the huge, shuddering bulge of herstomach. Rosalie’s hand came up with a scalpel.“Let the morphine spread!” Edward shouted at her.“There’s no time,” Rosalie hissed. “He’s dying!”Her hand came down on Bella’s stomach, and vivid red spouted out from whereshe pierced the skin. It was like a bucket being turned over, a faucet twisted tofull. Bella jerked, but didn’t scream. She was still choking.And then Rosalie lost her focus. I saw the expression on her face shift, saw herlips pull back from her teeth and her black eyes glint with thirst.“No, Rose!” Edward roared, but his hands were trapped, trying to prop Bellaupright so she could breathe.I launched myself at Rosalie, jumping across the table without bothering tophase. As I hit her stone body, knocking her toward the door, I felt the scalpel inher hand stab deep into my left arm. My right palm smashed against her face,locking her jaw and blocking her airways.I used my grip on Rosalie’s face to swing her body out so that I could land a solidkick in her gut; it was like kicking concrete. She flew into the door frame,buckling one side of it. The little speaker in her ear crackled into pieces. ThenAlice was there, yanking her by the throat to get her into the hall.And I had to give it to Blondie—she didn’t put up an ounce of fight. She wantedus to win. She let me trash her like that, to save Bella. Well, to save the thing.I ripped the blade out of my arm.“Alice, get her out of here!” Edward shouted. “Take her to Jasper and keep herthere! Jacob, I need you!”I didn’t watch Alice finish the job. I wheeled back to the operating table, whereBella was turning blue, her eyes wide and staring.“CPR?” Edward growled at me, fast and demanding.“Yes!”
    • 263I judged his face swiftly, looking for any sign that he was going to react likeRosalie. There was nothing but single-minded ferocity.“Get her breathing! I’ve got to get him out before—”Another shattering crack inside her body, the loudest yet, so loud that we bothfroze in shock waiting for her answering shriek. Nothing. Her legs, which hadbeen curled up in agony, now went limp, sprawling out in an unnatural way.“Her spine,” he choked in horror.“Get it out of her!” I snarled, flinging the scalpel at him. “She won’t feel anythingnow!”And then I bent over her head. Her mouth looked clear, so I pressed mine to hersand blew a lungful of air into it. I felt her twitching body expand, so there wasnothing blocking her throat.Her lips tasted like blood.I could hear her heart, thumping unevenly. Keep it going, I thought fiercely ather, blowing another gust of air into her body. You promised. Keep your heartbeating.I heard the soft, wet sound of the scalpel across her stomach. More blooddripping to the floor.The next sound jolted through me, unexpected, terrifying. Like metal beingshredded apart. The sound brought back the fight in the clearing so many monthsago, the tearing sound of the newborns being ripped apart. I glanced over to seeEdward’s face pressed against the bulge. Vampire teeth—a surefire way to cutthrough vampire skin.I shuddered as I blew more air into Bella.She coughed back at me, her eyes blinking, rolling blindly.“You stay with me now, Bella!” I yelled at her. “Do you hear me? Stay! You’re notleaving me. Keep your heart beating!”Her eyes wheeled, looking for me, or him, but seeing nothing.I stared into them anyway, keeping my gaze locked there.And then her body was suddenly still under my hands, though her breathingpicked up roughly and her heart continued to thud. I realized the stillness meantthat it was over. The internal beating was over. It must be out of her.
    • 264It was.Edward whispered, “Renesmee.”So Bella’d been wrong. It wasn’t the boy she’d imagined. No big surprise there.What hadn’t she been wrong about?I didn’t look away from her red-spotted eyes, but I felt her hands lift weakly.“Let me…,” she croaked in a broken whisper. “Give her to me.”I guess I should have known that he would always give her what she wanted, nomatter how stupid her request might be. But I didn’t dream he would listen to hernow. So I didn’t think to stop him.Something warm touched my arm. That right there should have caught myattention. Nothing felt warm to me.But I couldn’t look away from Bella’s face. She blinked and then stared, finallyseeing something. She moaned out a strange, weak croon.“Renes… mee. So… beautiful.”And then she gasped—gasped in pain.By the time I looked, it was too late. Edward had snatched the warm, bloodything out of her limp arms. My eyes flickered across her skin. It was red withblood—the blood that had flowed from her mouth, the blood smeared all over thecreature, and fresh blood welling out of a tiny double-crescent bite mark just overher left breast.“No, Renesmee,” Edward murmured, like he was teaching the monster manners.I didn’t look at him or it. I watched only Bella as her eyes rolled back into herhead.With a last dull ga-lump, her heart faltered and went silent.She missed maybe half of one beat, and then my hands were on her chest, doingcompressions. I counted in my head, trying to keep the rhythm steady. One. Two.Three. Four.Breaking away for a second, I blew another lungful of air into her.I couldn’t see anymore. My eyes were wet and blurry. But I was hyperaware of thesounds in the room. The unwilling glug-glug of her heart under my demanding
    • 265hands, the pounding of my own heart, and another—a fluttering beat that was toofast, too light. I couldn’t place it.I forced more air down Bella’s throat.“What are you waiting for?” I choked out breathlessly, pumping her heart again.One. Two. Three. Four.“Take the baby,” Edward said urgently.“Throw it out the window.” One. Two. Three. Four.“Give her to me,” a low voice chimed from the doorway.Edward and I snarled at the same time.One. Two. Three. Four.“I’ve got it under control,” Rosalie promised. “Give me the baby, Edward. I’ll takecare of her until Bella . . .”I breathed for Bella again while the exchange took place. The fluttering thumpa-thumpa-thumpa faded away with distance.“Move your hands, Jacob.”I looked up from Bella’s white eyes, still pumping her heart for her. Edward had asyringe in his hand—all silver, like it was made from steel.“What’s that?”His stone hand knocked mine out of the way. There was a tiny crunch as his blowbroke my little finger. In the same second, he shoved the needle straight into herheart.“My venom,” he answered as he pushed the plunger down.I heard the jolt in her heart, like he’d shocked her with paddles.“Keep it moving,” he ordered. His voice was ice, was dead. Fierce and unthinking.Like he was a machine.I ignored the healing ache in my finger and started pumping her heart again. Itwas harder, as if her blood was congealing there—thicker and slower. While Ipushed the now-viscous blood through her arteries, I watched what he was doing.
    • 266It was like he was kissing her, brushing his lips at her throat, at her wrists, intothe crease at the inside of her arm. But I could hear the lush tearing of her skin ashis teeth bit through, again and again, forcing venom into her system at as manypoints as possible. I saw his pale tongue sweep along the bleeding gashes, butbefore this could make me either sick or angry, I realized what he was doing.Where his tongue washed the venom over her skin, it sealed shut. Holding thepoison and the blood inside her body.I blew more air into her mouth, but there was nothing there. Just the lifeless riseof her chest in response. I kept pumping her heart, counting, while he workedmanically over her, trying to put her back together. All the king’s horses and allthe king’s men…But there was nothing there, just me, just him.Working over a corpse.Because that’s all that was left of the girl we both loved. This broken, bled-out,mangled corpse. We couldn’t put Bella together again.I knew it was too late. I knew she was dead. I knew it for sure because the pullwas gone. I didn’t feel any reason to be here beside her. She wasn’t here anymore.So this body had no more draw for me. The senseless need to be near her hadvanished.Or maybe moved was the better word. It seemed like I felt the pull from theopposite direction now. From down the stairs, out the door. The longing to getaway from here and never, ever come back.“Go, then,” he snapped, and he hit my hands out of the way again, taking myplace this time. Three fingers broken, it felt like.I straightened them numbly, not minding the throb of pain.He pushed her dead heart faster than I had.“She’s not dead,” he growled. “She’s going to be fine.”I wasn’t sure he was talking to me anymore.Turning away, leaving him with his dead, I walked slowly to the door. So slowly. Icouldn’t make my feet move faster.This was it, then. The ocean of pain. The other shore so far away across theboiling water that I couldn’t imagine it, much less see it.
    • 267I felt empty again, now that I’d lost my purpose. Saving Bella had been my fightfor so long now. And she wouldn’t be saved. She’d willingly sacrificed herself tobe torn apart by that monster’s young, and so the fight was lost. It was all over.I shuddered at the sound coming from behind me as I plodded down the stairs—the sound of a dead heart being forced to thud.I wanted to somehow pour bleach inside my head and let it fry my brain. To burnaway the images left from Bella’s final minutes. I’d take the brain damage if Icould get rid of that—the screaming, the bleeding, the unbearable crunching andsnapping as the newborn monster tore through her from the inside out. . . .I wanted to sprint away, to take the stairs ten at a time and race out the door, butmy feet were heavy as iron and my body was more tired than it had ever beenbefore. I shuffled down the stairs like a crippled old man.I rested at the bottom step, gathering my strength to get out the door.Rosalie was on the clean end of the white sofa, her back to me, cooing andmurmuring to the blanket-wrapped thing in her arms. She must have heard mepause, but she ignored me, caught up in her moment of stolen motherhood.Maybe she would be happy now. Rosalie had what she wanted, and Bella wouldnever come to take the creature from her. I wondered if that’s what the poisonousblonde had been hoping for all along.She held something dark in her hands, and there was a greedy sucking soundcoming from the tiny murderer she held.The scent of blood in the air. Human blood. Rosalie was feeding it. Of course itwould want blood. What else would you feed the kind of monster that wouldbrutally mutilate its own mother? It might as well have been drinking Bella’sblood. Maybe it was.My strength came back to me as I listened to the sound of the little executionerfeeding.Strength and hate and heat—red heat washing through my head, burning buterasing nothing. The images in my head were fuel, building up the inferno butrefusing to be consumed. I felt the tremors rock me from head to toe, and I didnot try to stop them.Rosalie was totally absorbed in the creature, paying no attention to me at all. Shewouldn’t be quick enough to stop me, distracted as she was.Sam had been right. The thing was an aberration—its existence went againstnature. A black, soulless demon. Something that had no right to be.
    • 268Something that had to be destroyed.It seemed like the pull had not been leading to the door after all. I could feel itnow, encouraging me, tugging me forward. Pushing me to finish this, to cleansethe world of this abomination.Rosalie would try to kill me when the creature was dead, and I would fight back. Iwasn’t sure if I would have time to finish her before the others came to help.Maybe, maybe not. I didn’t much care either way.I didn’t care if the wolves, either set, avenged me or called the Cullens’ justicefair. None of that mattered. All I cared about was my own justice. My revenge.The thing that had killed Bella would not live another minute longer.If Bella’d survived, she would have hated me for this. She would have wanted tokill me personally.But I didn’t care. She didn’t care what she had done to me—letting herself beslaughtered like an animal. Why should I take her feelings into account?And then there was Edward. He must be too busy now—too far gone in his insanedenial, trying to reanimate a corpse—to listen to my plans.So I wouldn’t get the chance to keep my promise to him, unless—and it was not awager I’d put money on—I managed to win the fight against Rosalie, Jasper, andAlice, three on one. But even if I did win, I didn’t think I had it in me to killEdward.Because I didn’t have enough compassion for that. Why should I let him get awayfrom what he’d done? Wouldn’t it be more fair—more satisfying—to let him livewith nothing, nothing at all?It made me almost smile, as filled with hate as I was, to imagine it. No Bella. Nokiller spawn. And also missing as many members of his family as I was able totake down. Of course, he could probably put those back together, since I wouldn’tbe around to burn them. Unlike Bella, who would never be whole again.I wondered if the creature could be put back together. I doubted it. It was partBella, too—so it must have inherited some of her vulnerability. I could hear thatin the tiny, thrumming beat of its heart.Its heart was beating. Hers wasn’t.Only a second had passed as I made these easy decisions.The trembling was getting tighter and faster. I coiled myself, preparing to springat the blond vampire and rip the murderous thing from her arms with my teeth.
    • 269Rosalie cooed at the creature again, setting the empty metal bottle-thing asideand lifting the creature into the air to nuzzle her face against its cheek.Perfect. The new position was perfect for my strike. I leaned forward and felt theheat begin to change me while the pull toward the killer grew—it was strongerthan I’d ever felt it before, so strong it reminded me of an Alpha’s command, likeit would crush me if I didn’t obey.This time I wanted to obey.The murderer stared past Rosalie’s shoulder at me, its gaze more focused thanany newborn creature’s gaze should be.Warm brown eyes, the color of milk chocolate—the exact same color that Bella’shad been.My shaking jerked to a stop; heat flooded through me, stronger than before, but itwas a new kind of heat—not a burning.It was a glowing.Everything inside me came undone as I stared at the tiny porcelain face of thehalf-vampire, half-human baby. All the lines that held me to my life were slicedapart in swift cuts, like clipping the strings to a bunch of balloons. Everythingthat made me who I was—my love for the dead girl upstairs, my love for myfather, my loyalty to my new pack, the love for my other brothers, my hatred formy enemies, my home, my name, my self—disconnected from me in thatsecond—snip, snip, snip—and floated up into space.I was not left drifting. A new string held me where I was.Not one string, but a million. Not strings, but steel cables. A million steel cablesall tying me to one thing—to the very center of the universe.I could see that now—how the universe swirled around this one point. I’d neverseen the symmetry of the universe before, but now it was plain.The gravity of the earth no longer tied me to the place where I stood.It was the baby girl in the blond vampire’s arms that held me here now.Renesmee.From upstairs, there was a new sound. The only sound that could touch me inthis endless instant.A frantic pounding, a racing beat…
    • 270A changing heart.
    • 271BOOK THREE bella CONTENTS PREFACE 19. BURNING 20. NEW 21. FIRST HUNT 22. PROMISED 23. MEMORIES 24. SURPRISE 25. FAVOR 26. SHINY 27. TRAVEL PLANS 28. THE FUTURE 29. DEFECTION 30. IRRESISTIBLE 31. TALENTED 32. COMPANY 33. FORGERY 34. DECLARED 35. DEADLINE 36. BLOODLUST
    • 272 37. CONTRIVANCES 38. POWER39. THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER
    • 273Personal affection is a luxury you can have only after all yourenemies are eliminated. Until then, everyone you love is a hostage,sapping your courage and corrupting your judgment. Orson Scott Card Empire
    • 274 PREFACENo longer just a nightmare, the line of black advanced on us through the icy miststirred up by their feet.We’re going to die, I thought in panic. I was desperate for the precious one Iguarded, but even to think of that was a lapse in attention I could not afford.They ghosted closer, their dark robes billowing slightly with the movement. I sawtheir hands curl into bone-colored claws. They drifted apart, angling to come atus from all sides. We were outnumbered. It was over.And then, like a burst of light from a flash, the whole scene was different. Yetnothing changed—the Volturi still stalked toward us, poised to kill. All that reallychanged was how the picture looked to me. Suddenly, I was hungry for it. Iwanted them to charge. The panic changed to bloodlust as I crouched forward, asmile on my face, and a growl ripped through my bared teeth.
    • 275 19. BURNINGThe pain was bewildering.Exactly that—I was bewildered. I couldn’t understand, couldn’t make sense ofwhat was happening.My body tried to reject the pain, and I was sucked again and again into ablackness that cut out whole seconds or maybe even minutes of the agony,making it that much harder to keep up with reality.I tried to separate them.Non-reality was black, and it didn’t hurt so much.Reality was red, and it felt like I was being sawed in half, hit by a bus, punched bya prize fighter, trampled by bulls, and submerged in acid, all at the same time.Reality was feeling my body twist and flip when I couldn’t possibly move becauseof the pain.Reality was knowing there was something so much more important than all thistorture, and not being able to remember what it was.Reality had come on so fast.One moment, everything was as it should have been. Surrounded by people Iloved. Smiles. Somehow, unlikely as it was, it seemed like I was about to geteverything I’d been fighting for.And then one tiny, inconsequential thing had gone wrong.I’d watched as my cup tilted, dark blood spilling out and staining the perfectwhite, and I’d lurched toward the accident reflexively. I’d seen the other, fasterhands, but my body had continued to reach, to stretch. . . .Inside me, something had yanked the opposite direction.Ripping. Breaking. Agony.The darkness had taken over, and then washed away to a wave of torture. Icouldn’t breathe—I had drowned once before, and this was different; it was toohot in my throat.Pieces of me shattering, snapping, slicing apart. . . .
    • 276More blackness.Voices, this time, shouting, as the pain came back.“The placenta must have detached!”Something sharper than knives ripped through me—the words, making sense inspite of the other tortures. Detached placenta—I knew what that meant. It meantthat my baby was dying inside me.“Get him out!” I screamed to Edward. Why hadn’t he done it yet? “He can’tbreathe! Do it now!”“The morphine—”He wanted to wait, to give me painkillers, while our baby was dying?!“No! Now—,” I choked, unable to finish.Black spots covered the light in the room as a cold point of new pain stabbed icilyinto my stomach. It felt wrong—I struggled automatically to protect my womb,my baby, my little Edward Jacob, but I was weak. My lungs ached, oxygen burnedaway.The pain faded away again, though I clung to it now. My baby, my baby, dying. . ..How long had passed? Seconds or minutes? The pain was gone. Numb. I couldn’tfeel. I still couldn’t see, either, but I could hear. There was air in my lungs again,scraping in rough bubbles up and down my throat.“You stay with me now, Bella! Do you hear me? Stay! You’re not leaving me. Keepyour heart beating!”Jacob? Jacob, still here, still trying to save me.Of course, I wanted to tell him. Of course I would keep my heart beating. Hadn’t Ipromised them both?I tried to feel my heart, to find it, but I was so lost inside my own body. I couldn’tfeel the things I should, and nothing felt in the right place. I blinked and I foundmy eyes. I could see the light. Not what I was looking for, but better than nothing.As my eyes struggled to adjust, Edward whispered, “Renesmee.”Renesmee?
    • 277Not the pale and perfect son of my imagination? I felt a moment of shock. Andthen a flood of warmth.Renesmee.I willed my lips to move, willed the bubbles of air to turn into whispers on mytongue. I forced my numb hands to reach.“Let me… Give her to me.”The light danced, shattering off Edward’s crystal hands. The sparkles were tingedwith red, with the blood that covered his skin. And more red in his hands.Something small and struggling, dripping with blood. He touched the warm bodyto my weak arms, almost like I was holding her. Her wet skin was hot—as hot asJacob’s.My eyes focused; suddenly everything was absolutely clear.Renesmee did not cry, but she breathed in quick, startled pants. Her eyes wereopen, her expression so shocked it was almost funny. The little, perfectly roundhead was covered in a thick layer of matted, bloody curls. Her irises were afamiliar—but astonishing—chocolate brown. Under the blood, her skin lookedpale, a creamy ivory. All besides her cheeks, which flamed with color.Her tiny face was so absolutely perfect that it stunned me. She was even morebeautiful than her father. Unbelievable. Impossible.“Renesmee,” I whispered. “So… beautiful.”The impossible face suddenly smiled—a wide, deliberate smile. Behind the shell-pink lips was a full complement of snowy milk teeth.She leaned her head down, against my chest, burrowing against the warmth. Herskin was warm and silky, but it didn’t give the way mine did.Then there was pain again—just one warm slash of it. I gasped.And she was gone. My angel-faced baby was nowhere. I couldn’t see or feel her.No! I wanted to shout. Give her back to me!But the weakness was too much. My arms felt like empty rubber hoses for amoment, and then they felt like nothing at all. I couldn’t feel them. I couldn’t feelme.The blackness rushed over my eyes more solidly than before. Like a thickblindfold, firm and fast. Covering not just my eyes but also my self with a
    • 278crushing weight. It was exhausting to push against it. I knew it would be so mucheasier to give in. To let the blackness push me down, down, down to a placewhere there was no pain and no weariness and no worry and no fear.If it had only been for myself, I wouldn’t have been able to struggle very long. Iwas only human, with no more than human strength. I’d been trying to keep upwith the supernatural for too long, like Jacob had said.But this wasn’t just about me.If I did the easy thing now, let the black nothingness erase me, I would hurt them.Edward. Edward. My life and his were twisted into a single strand. Cut one, andyou cut both. If he were gone, I would not be able to live through that. If I weregone, he wouldn’t live through it, either. And a world without Edward seemedcompletely pointless. Edward had to exist.Jacob—who’d said goodbye to me over and over but kept coming back when Ineeded him. Jacob, who I’d wounded so many times it was criminal. Would I hurthim again, the worst way yet? He’d stayed for me, despite everything. Now all heasked was that I stay for him.But it was so dark here that I couldn’t see either of their faces. Nothing seemedreal. That made it hard not to give up.I kept pushing against the black, though, almost a reflex. I wasn’t trying to lift it. Iwas just resisting. Not allowing it to crush me completely. I wasn’t Atlas, and theblack felt as heavy as a planet; I couldn’t shoulder it. All I could do was not beentirely obliterated.It was sort of the pattern to my life—I’d never been strong enough to deal with thethings outside my control, to attack the enemies or outrun them. To avoid thepain. Always human and weak, the only thing I’d ever been able to do was keepgoing. Endure. Survive.It had been enough up to this point. It would have to be enough today. I wouldendure this until help came.I knew Edward would be doing everything he could. He would not give up.Neither would I.I held the blackness of nonexistence at bay by inches.It wasn’t enough, though—that determination. As the time ground on and on andthe darkness gained by tiny eighths and sixteenths of my inches, I neededsomething more to draw strength from.
    • 279I couldn’t pull even Edward’s face into view. Not Jacob’s, not Alice’s or Rosalie’sor Charlie’s or Renée’s or Carlisle’s or Esme’s… Nothing. It terrified me, and Iwondered if it was too late.I felt myself slipping—there was nothing to hold on to.No! I had to survive this. Edward was depending on me. Jacob. Charlie AliceRosalie Carlisle Renée Esme…Renesmee.And then, though I still couldn’t see anything, suddenly I could feel something.Like phantom limbs, I imagined I could feel my arms again. And in them,something small and hard and very, very warm.My baby. My little nudger.I had done it. Against the odds, I had been strong enough to survive Renesmee, tohold on to her until she was strong enough to live without me.That spot of heat in my phantom arms felt so real. I clutched it closer. It wasexactly where my heart should be. Holding tight the warm memory of mydaughter, I knew that I would be able to fight the darkness as long as I needed to.The warmth beside my heart got more and more real, warmer and warmer.Hotter. The heat was so real it was hard to believe that I was imagining it.Hotter.Uncomfortable now. Too hot. Much, much too hot.Like grabbing the wrong end of a curling iron—my automatic response was todrop the scorching thing in my arms. But there was nothing in my arms. My armswere not curled to my chest. My arms were dead things lying somewhere at myside. The heat was inside me.The burning grew—rose and peaked and rose again until it surpassed anything I’dever felt.I felt the pulse behind the fire raging now in my chest and realized that I’d foundmy heart again, just in time to wish I never had. To wish that I’d embraced theblackness while I’d still had the chance. I wanted to raise my arms and claw mychest open and rip the heart from it—anything to get rid of this torture. But Icouldn’t feel my arms, couldn’t move one vanished finger.
    • 280James, snapping my leg under his foot. That was nothing. That was a soft place torest on a feather bed. I’d take that now, a hundred times. A hundred snaps. I’dtake it and be grateful.The baby, kicking my ribs apart, breaking her way through me piece by piece.That was nothing. That was floating in a pool of cool water. I’d take it a thousandtimes. Take it and be grateful.The fire blazed hotter and I wanted to scream. To beg for someone to kill me now,before I lived one more second in this pain. But I couldn’t move my lips. Theweight was still there, pressing on me.I realized it wasn’t the darkness holding me down; it was my body. So heavy.Burying me in the flames that were chewing their way out from my heart now,spreading with impossible pain through my shoulders and stomach, scaldingtheir way up my throat, licking at my face.Why couldn’t I move? Why couldn’t I scream? This wasn’t part of the stories.My mind was unbearably clear—sharpened by the fierce pain—and I saw theanswer almost as soon as I could form the questions.The morphine.It seemed like a million deaths ago that we’d discussed it—Edward, Carlisle, andI. Edward and Carlisle had hoped that enough painkillers would help fight thepain of the venom. Carlisle had tried with Emmett, but the venom had burnedahead of the medicine, sealing his veins. There hadn’t been time for it to spread.I’d kept my face smooth and nodded and thanked my rarely lucky stars thatEdward could not read my mind.Because I’d had morphine and venom together in my system before, and I knewthe truth. I knew the numbness of the medicine was completely irrelevant whilethe venom seared through my veins. But there’d been no way I was going tomention that fact. Nothing that would make him more unwilling to change me.I hadn’t guessed that the morphine would have this effect—that it would pin medown and gag me. Hold me paralyzed while I burned.I knew all the stories. I knew that Carlisle had kept quiet enough to avoiddiscovery while he burned. I knew that, according to Rosalie, it did no good toscream. And I’d hoped that maybe I could be like Carlisle. That I would believeRosalie’s words and keep my mouth shut. Because I knew that every scream thatescaped my lips would torment Edward.Now it seemed like a hideous joke that I was getting my wish fulfilled.
    • 281If I couldn’t scream, how could I tell them to kill me?All I wanted was to die. To never have been born. The whole of my existence didnot outweigh this pain. Wasn’t worth living through it for one more heartbeat.Let me die, let me die, let me die.And, for a never-ending space, that was all there was. Just the fiery torture, andmy soundless shrieks, pleading for death to come. Nothing else, not even time. Sothat made it infinite, with no beginning and no end. One infinite moment of pain.The only change came when suddenly, impossibly, my pain was doubled. Thelower half of my body, deadened since before the morphine, was suddenly on fire,too. Some broken connection had been healed—knitted together by the scorchingfingers of the flame.The endless burn raged on.It could have been seconds or days, weeks or years, but, eventually, time came tomean something again.Three things happened together, grew from each other so that I didn’t knowwhich came first: time restarted, the morphine’s weight faded, and I got stronger.I could feel the control of my body come back to me in increments, and thoseincrements were my first markers of the time passing. I knew it when I was ableto twitch my toes and twist my fingers into fists. I knew it, but I did not act on it.Though the fire did not decrease one tiny degree—in fact, I began to develop anew capacity for experiencing it, a new sensitivity to appreciate, separately, eachblistering tongue of flame that licked through my veins—I discovered that I couldthink around it.I could remember why I shouldn’t scream. I could remember the reason why I’dcommitted to enduring this unendurable agony. I could remember that, though itfelt impossible now, there was something that might be worth the torture.This happened just in time for me to hold on when the weights left my body. Toanyone watching me, there would be no change. But for me, as I struggled to keepthe screams and thrashing locked up inside my body, where they couldn’t hurtanyone else, it felt like I’d gone from being tied to the stake as I burned, togripping that stake to hold myself in the fire.I had just enough strength to lie there unmoving while I was charred alive.My hearing got clearer and clearer, and I could count the frantic, pounding beatsof my heart to mark the time.
    • 282I could count the shallow breaths that gasped through my teeth.I could count the low, even breaths that came from somewhere close beside me.These moved slowest, so I concentrated on them. They meant the most timepassing. More even than a clock’s pendulum, those breaths pulled me through theburning seconds toward the end.I continued to get stronger, my thoughts clearer. When new noises came, I couldlisten.There were light footsteps, the whisper of air stirred by an opening door. Thefootsteps got closer, and I felt pressure against the inside of my wrist. I couldn’tfeel the coolness of the fingers. The fire blistered away every memory of cool.“Still no change?”“None.”The lightest pressure, breath against my scorched skin.“There’s no scent of the morphine left.”“I know.”“Bella? Can you hear me?”I knew, beyond all doubt, that if I unlocked my teeth I would lose it—I wouldshriek and screech and writhe and thrash. If I opened my eyes, if I so much astwitched a finger—any change at all would be the end of my control.“Bella? Bella, love? Can you open your eyes? Can you squeeze my hand?”Pressure on my fingers. It was harder not to answer this voice, but I stayedparalyzed. I knew that the pain in his voice now was nothing compared to what itcould be. Right now he only feared that I was suffering.“Maybe… Carlisle, maybe I was too late.” His voice was muffled; it broke on theword late.My resolve wavered for a second.“Listen to her heart, Edward. It’s stronger than even Emmett’s was. I’ve neverheard anything so vital. She’ll be perfect.”Yes, I was right to keep quiet. Carlisle would reassure him. He didn’t need tosuffer with me.
    • 283“And her—her spine?”“Her injuries weren’t so much worse than Esme’s. The venom will heal her as itdid Esme.”“But she’s so still. I must have done something wrong.”“Or something right, Edward. Son, you did everything I could have and more. I’mnot sure I would have had the persistence, the faith it took to save her. Stopberating yourself. Bella is going to be fine.”A broken whisper. “She must be in agony.”“We don’t know that. She had so much morphine in her system. We don’t knowthe effect that will have on her experience.”Faint pressure inside the crease of my elbow. Another whisper. “Bella, I love you.Bella, I’m sorry.”I wanted so much to answer him, but I wouldn’t make his pain worse. Not while Ihad the strength to hold myself still.Through all this, the racking fire went right on burning me. But there was somuch space in my head now. Room to ponder their conversation, room toremember what had happened, room to look ahead to the future, with stillendless room left over to suffer in.Also room to worry.Where was my baby? Why wasn’t she here? Why weren’t they talking about her?“No, I’m staying right here,” Edward whispered, answering an unspoken thought.“They’ll sort it out.”“An interesting situation,” Carlisle responded. “And I’d thought I’d seen justabout everything.”“I’ll deal with it later. We’ll deal with it.” Something pressed softly to myblistering palm.“I’m sure, between the five of us, we can keep it from turning into bloodshed.”Edward sighed. “I don’t know which side to take. I’d love to flog them both. Well,later.”“I wonder what Bella will think—whose side she’ll take,” Carlisle mused.
    • 284One low, strained chuckle. “I’m sure she’ll surprise me. She always does.”Carlisle’s footsteps faded away again, and I was frustrated that there was nofurther explanation. Were they talking so mysteriously just to annoy me?I went back to counting Edward’s breaths to mark the time.Ten thousand, nine hundred forty-three breaths later, a different set of footstepswhispered into the room. Lighter. More… rhythmic.Strange that I could distinguish the minute differences between footsteps that I’dnever been able to hear at all before today.“How much longer?” Edward asked.“It won’t be long now,” Alice told him. “See how clear she’s becoming? I can seeher so much better.” She sighed.“Still feeling a little bitter?”“Yes, thanks so much for bringing it up,” she grumbled. “You would be mortified,too, if you realized that you were handcuffed by your own nature. I see vampiresbest, because I am one; I see humans okay, because I was one. But I can’t seethese odd half-breeds at all because they’re nothing I’ve experienced. Bah!”“Focus, Alice.”“Right. Bella’s almost too easy to see now.”There was a long moment of silence, and then Edward sighed. It was a newsound, happier.“She’s really going to be fine,” he breathed.“Of course she is.”“You weren’t so sanguine two days ago.”“I couldn’t see right two days ago. But now that she’s free of all the blind spots,it’s a piece of cake.”“Could you concentrate for me? On the clock—give me an estimate.”Alice sighed. “So impatient. Fine. Give me a sec—”Quiet breathing.
    • 285“Thank you, Alice.” His voice was brighter.How long? Couldn’t they at least say it aloud for me? Was that too much to ask?How many more seconds would I burn? Ten thousand? Twenty? Another day—eighty-six thousand, four hundred? More than that?“She’s going to be dazzling.”Edward growled quietly. “She always has been.”Alice snorted. “You know what I mean. Look at her.”Edward didn’t answer, but Alice’s words gave me hope that maybe I didn’tresemble the charcoal briquette I felt like. It seemed as if I must be just a pile ofcharred bones by now. Every cell in my body had been razed to ash.I heard Alice breeze out of the room. I heard the swish of the fabric she moved,rubbing against itself. I heard the quiet buzz of the light hanging from the ceiling.I heard the faint wind brushing against the outside of the house. I could heareverything.Downstairs, someone was watching a ball game. The Mariners were winning bytwo runs.“It’s my turn,” I heard Rosalie snap at someone, and there was a low snarl inresponse.“Hey, now,” Emmett cautioned.Someone hissed.I listened for more, but there was nothing but the game. Baseball was notinteresting enough to distract me from the pain, so I listened to Edward’sbreathing again, counting the seconds.Twenty-one thousand, nine hundred seventeen and a half seconds later, the painchanged.On the good-news side of things, it started to fade from my fingertips and toes.Fading slowly, but at least it was doing something new. This had to be it. Thepain was on its way out.…And then the bad news. The fire in my throat wasn’t the same as before. I wasn’tonly on fire, but I was now parched, too. Dry as bone. So thirsty. Burning fire,and burning thirst…Also bad news: The fire inside my heart got hotter.
    • 286How was that possible?My heartbeat, already too fast, picked up—the fire drove its rhythm to a newfrantic pace.“Carlisle,” Edward called. His voice was low but clear. I knew that Carlisle wouldhear it, if he were in or near the house.The fire retreated from my palms, leaving them blissfully pain-free and cool. Butit retreated to my heart, which blazed hot as the sun and beat at a furious newspeed.Carlisle entered the room, Alice at his side. Their footsteps were so distinct, Icould even tell that Carlisle was on the right, and a foot ahead of Alice.“Listen,” Edward told them.The loudest sound in the room was my frenzied heart, pounding to the rhythm ofthe fire.“Ah,” Carlisle said. “It’s almost over.”My relief at his words was overshadowed by the excruciating pain in my heart.My wrists were free, though, and my ankles. The fire was totally extinguishedthere.“Soon,” Alice agreed eagerly. “I’ll get the others. Should I have Rosalie… ?”“Yes—keep the baby away.”What? No. No! What did he mean, keep my baby away? What was he thinking?My fingers twitched—the irritation breaking through my perfect façade. Theroom went silent besides the jack-hammering of my heart as they all stoppedbreathing for a second in response.A hand squeezed my wayward fingers. “Bella? Bella, love?”Could I answer him without screaming? I considered that for a moment, and thenthe fire ripped hotter still through my chest, draining in from my elbows andknees. Better not to chance it.“I’ll bring them right up,” Alice said, an urgent edge to her tone, and I heard theswish of wind as she darted away.And then—oh!
    • 287My heart took off, beating like helicopter blades, the sound almost a singlesustained note; it felt like it would grind through my ribs. The fire flared up in thecenter of my chest, sucking the last remnants of the flames from the rest of mybody to fuel the most scorching blaze yet. The pain was enough to stun me, tobreak through my iron grip on the stake. My back arched, bowed as if the fire wasdragging me upward by my heart.I allowed no other piece of my body to break rank as my torso slumped back tothe table.It became a battle inside me—my sprinting heart racing against the attacking fire.Both were losing. The fire was doomed, having consumed everything that wascombustible; my heart galloped toward its last beat.The fire constricted, concentrating inside that one remaining human organ with afinal, unbearable surge. The surge was answered by a deep, hollow-soundingthud. My heart stuttered twice, and then thudded quietly again just once more.There was no sound. No breathing. Not even mine.For a moment, the absence of pain was all I could comprehend.And then I opened my eyes and gazed above me in wonder.
    • 288 20. NEWEverything was so clear.Sharp. Defined.The brilliant light overhead was still blinding-bright, and yet I could plainly seethe glowing strands of the filaments inside the bulb. I could see each color of therainbow in the white light, and, at the very edge of the spectrum, an eighth color Ihad no name for.Behind the light, I could distinguish the individual grains in the dark wood ceilingabove. In front of it, I could see the dust motes in the air, the sides the lighttouched, and the dark sides, distinct and separate. They spun like little planets,moving around each other in a celestial dance.The dust was so beautiful that I inhaled in shock; the air whistled down mythroat, swirling the motes into a vortex. The action felt wrong. I considered, andrealized the problem was that there was no relief tied to the action. I didn’t needthe air. My lungs weren’t waiting for it. They reacted indifferently to the influx.I did not need the air, but I liked it. In it, I could taste the room around me—tastethe lovely dust motes, the mix of the stagnant air mingling with the flow ofslightly cooler air from the open door. Taste a lush whiff of silk. Taste a faint hintof something warm and desirable, something that should be moist, but wasn’t.…That smell made my throat burn dryly, a faint echo of the venom burn, thoughthe scent was tainted by the bite of chlorine and ammonia. And most of all, Icould taste an almost-honey-lilac-and-sun-flavored scent that was the strongestthing, the closest thing to me.I heard the sound of the others, breathing again now that I did. Their breathmixed with the scent that was something just off honey and lilac and sunshine,bringing new flavors. Cinnamon, hyacinth, pear, seawater, rising bread, pine,vanilla, leather, apple, moss, lavender, chocolate.… I traded a dozen differentcomparisons in my mind, but none of them fit exactly. So sweet and pleasant.The TV downstairs had been muted, and I heard someone—Rosalie?—shift herweight on the first floor.I also heard a faint, thudding rhythm, with a voice shouting angrily to the beat.Rap music? I was mystified for a moment, and then the sound faded away like acar passing by with the windows rolled down.With a start, I realized that this could be exactly right. Could I hear all the way tothe freeway?
    • 289I didn’t realize someone was holding my hand until whoever it was squeezed itlightly. Like it had before to hide the pain, my body locked down again insurprise. This was not a touch I expected. The skin was perfectly smooth, but itwas the wrong temperature. Not cold.After that first frozen second of shock, my body responded to the unfamiliartouch in a way that shocked me even more.Air hissed up my throat, spitting through my clenched teeth with a low, menacingsound like a swarm of bees. Before the sound was out, my muscles bunched andarched, twisting away from the unknown. I flipped off my back in a spin so fast itshould have turned the room into an incomprehensible blur—but it did not. I sawevery dust mote, every splinter in the wood-paneled walls, every loose thread inmicroscopic detail as my eyes whirled past them.So by the time I found myself crouched against the wall defensively—about asixteenth of a second later—I already understood what had startled me, and that Ihad overreacted.Oh. Of course. Edward wouldn’t feel cold to me. We were the same temperaturenow.I held my pose for an eighth of a second longer, adjusting to the scene before me.Edward was leaning across the operating table that had been my pyre, his handreached out toward me, his expression anxious.Edward’s face was the most important thing, but my peripheral vision cataloguedeverything else, just in case. Some instinct to defend had been triggered, and Iautomatically searched for any sign of danger.My vampire family waited cautiously against the far wall by the door, Emmettand Jasper in the front. Like there was danger. My nostrils flared, searching forthe threat. I could smell nothing out of place. That faint scent of somethingdelicious—but marred by harsh chemicals—tickled my throat again, setting it toaching and burning.Alice was peeking around Jasper’s elbow with a huge grin on her face; the lightsparkled off her teeth, another eight-color rainbow.That grin reassured me and then put the pieces together. Jasper and Emmettwere in the front to protect the others, as I had assumed. What I hadn’t graspedimmediately was that I was the danger.All this was a sideline. The greater part of my senses and my mind were stillfocused on Edward’s face.
    • 290I had never seen it before this second.How many times had I stared at Edward and marveled over his beauty? Howmany hours—days, weeks—of my life had I spent dreaming about what I thendeemed to be perfection? I thought I’d known his face better than my own. I’dthought this was the one sure physical thing in my whole world: the flawlessnessof Edward’s face.I may as well have been blind.For the first time, with the dimming shadows and limiting weakness of humanitytaken off my eyes, I saw his face. I gasped and then struggled with my vocabulary,unable to find the right words. I needed better words.At this point, the other part of my attention had ascertained that there was nodanger here besides myself, and I automatically straightened out of my crouch;almost a whole second had passed since I’d been on the table.I was momentarily preoccupied by the way my body moved. The instant I’dconsidered standing erect, I was already straight. There was no brief fragment oftime in which the action occurred; change was instantaneous, almost as if therewas no movement at all.I continued to stare at Edward’s face, motionless again.He moved slowly around the table—each step taking nearly half a second, eachstep flowing sinuously like river water weaving over smooth stones—his hand stilloutstretched.I watched the grace of his advance, absorbing it with my new eyes.“Bella?” he asked in a low, calming tone, but the worry in his voice layered myname with tension.I could not answer immediately, lost as I was in the velvet folds of his voice. Itwas the most perfect symphony, a symphony in one instrument, an instrumentmore profound than any created by man. . . .“Bella, love? I’m sorry, I know it’s disorienting. But you’re all right. Everything isfine.”Everything? My mind spun out, spiraling back to my last human hour. Already,the memory seemed dim, like I was watching through a thick, dark veil—becausemy human eyes had been half blind. Everything had been so blurred.When he said everything was fine, did that include Renesmee? Where was she?With Rosalie? I tried to remember her face—I knew that she had been beautiful—
    • 291but it was irritating to try to see through the human memories. Her face wasshrouded in darkness, so poorly lit. . . .What about Jacob? Was he fine? Did my long-suffering best friend hate me now?Had he gone back to Sam’s pack? Seth and Leah, too?Were the Cullens safe, or had my transformation ignited the war with the pack?Did Edward’s blanket assurance cover all of that? Or was he just trying to calmme?And Charlie? What would I tell him now? He must have called while I wasburning. What had they told him? What did he think had happened to me?As I deliberated for one small piece of a second over which question to ask first,Edward reached out tentatively and stroked his fingertips across my cheek.Smooth as satin, soft as a feather, and now exactly matched to the temperature ofmy skin.His touch seemed to sweep beneath the surface of my skin, right through thebones of my face. The feeling was tingly, electric—it jolted through my bones,down my spine, and trembled in my stomach.Wait, I thought as the trembling blossomed into a warmth, a yearning. Wasn’t Isupposed to lose this? Wasn’t giving up this feeling a part of the bargain?I was a newborn vampire. The dry, scorching ache in my throat gave proof tothat. And I knew what being a newborn entailed. Human emotions and longingswould come back to me later in some form, but I’d accepted that I would not feelthem in the beginning. Only thirst. That was the deal, the price. I’d agreed to payit.But as Edward’s hand curled to the shape of my face like satin-covered steel,desire raced through my dried-out veins, singing from my scalp to my toes.He arched one perfect eyebrow, waiting for me to speak.I threw my arms around him.Again, it was like there was no movement. One moment I stood straight and stillas a statue; in the same instant, he was in my arms.Warm—or at least, that was my perception. With the sweet, delicious scent thatI’d never been able to really take in with my dull human senses, but that was onehundred percent Edward. I pressed my face into his smooth chest.And then he shifted his weight uncomfortably. Leaned away from my embrace. Istared up at his face, confused and frightened by the rejection.
    • 292“Um… carefully, Bella. Ow.”I yanked my arms away, folding them behind my back as soon as I understood.I was too strong.“Oops,” I mouthed.He smiled the kind of smile that would have stopped my heart if it were stillbeating.“Don’t panic, love,” he said, lifting his hand to touch my lips, parted in horror.“You’re just a bit stronger than I am for the moment.”My eyebrows pushed together. I’d known this, too, but it felt more surreal thanany other part of this ultimately surreal moment. I was stronger than Edward. I’dmade him say ow.His hand stroked my cheek again, and I all but forgot my distress as another waveof desire rippled through my motionless body.These emotions were so much stronger than I was used to that it was hard to stickto one train of thought despite the extra room in my head. Each new sensationoverwhelmed me. I remembered Edward saying once—his voice in my head aweak shadow compared to the crystal, musical clarity I was hearing now—that hiskind, our kind, were easily distracted. I could see why.I made a concerted effort to focus. There was something I needed to say. Themost important thing.Very carefully, so carefully that the movement was actually discernible, I broughtmy right arm out from behind my back and raised my hand to touch his cheek. Irefused to let myself be sidetracked by the pearly color of my hand or by thesmooth silk of his skin or by the charge that zinged in my fingertips.I stared into his eyes and heard my own voice for the first time.“I love you,” I said, but it sounded like singing. My voice rang and shimmered likea bell.His answering smile dazzled me more than it ever had when I was human; I couldreally see it now.“As I love you,” he told me.He took my face between his hands and leaned his face to mine—slow enough toremind me to be careful. He kissed me, soft as a whisper at first, and then
    • 293suddenly stronger, fiercer. I tried to remember to be gentle with him, but it washard work to remember anything in the onslaught of sensation, hard to hold onto any coherent thoughts.It was like he’d never kissed me—like this was our first kiss. And, in truth, he’dnever kissed me this way before.It almost made me feel guilty. Surely I was in breach of the contract. I couldn’t beallowed to have this, too.Though I didn’t need oxygen, my breathing sped, raced as fast as it had when Iwas burning. This was a different kind of fire.Someone cleared his throat. Emmett. I recognized the deep sound at once, jokingand annoyed at the same time.I’d forgotten we weren’t alone. And then I realized that the way I was curvedaround Edward now was not exactly polite for company.Embarrassed, I half-stepped away in another instantaneous movement.Edward chuckled and stepped with me, keeping his arms tight around my waist.His face was glowing—like a white flame burned from behind his diamond skin.I took an unnecessary breath to settle myself.How different this kissing was! I read his expression as I compared the indistincthuman memories to this clear, intense feeling. He looked… a little smug.“You’ve been holding out on me,” I accused in my singing voice, my eyesnarrowing a tiny bit.He laughed, radiant with relief that it was all over—the fear, the pain, theuncertainties, the waiting, all of it behind us now. “It was sort of necessary at thetime,” he reminded me. “Now it’s your turn to not break me.” He laughed again.I frowned as I considered that, and then Edward was not the only one laughing.Carlisle stepped around Emmett and walked toward me swiftly; his eyes wereonly slightly wary, but Jasper shadowed his footsteps. I’d never seen Carlisle’sface before either, not really. I had an odd urge to blink—like I was staring at thesun.“How do you feel, Bella?” Carlisle asked.I considered that for a sixty-fourth of a second.
    • 294“Overwhelmed. There’s so much. . . .” I trailed off, listening to the bell-tone of myvoice again.“Yes, it can be quite confusing.”I nodded one fast, jerky bob. “But I feel like me. Sort of. I didn’t expect that.”Edward’s arms squeezed lightly around my waist. “I told you so,” he whispered.“You are quite controlled,” Carlisle mused. “More so than I expected, even withthe time you had to prepare yourself mentally for this.”I thought about the wild mood swings, the difficulty concentrating, andwhispered, “I’m not sure about that.”He nodded seriously, and then his jeweled eyes glittered with interest. “It seemslike we did something right with the morphine this time. Tell me, what do youremember of the transformation process?”I hesitated, intensely aware of Edward’s breath brushing against my cheek,sending whispers of electricity through my skin.“Everything was… very dim before. I remember the baby couldn’t breathe. . . .”I looked at Edward, momentarily frightened by the memory.“Renesmee is healthy and well,” he promised, a gleam I’d never seen before in hiseyes. He said her name with an understated fervor. A reverence. The way devoutpeople talked about their gods. “What do you remember after that?”I focused on my poker face. I’d never been much of a liar. “It’s hard to remember.It was so dark before. And then… I opened my eyes and I could see everything.”“Amazing,” Carlisle breathed, his eyes alight.Chagrin washed through me, and I waited for the heat to burn in my cheeks andgive me away. And then I remembered that I would never blush again. Maybethat would protect Edward from the truth.I’d have to find a way to tip off Carlisle, though. Someday. If he ever needed tocreate another vampire. That possibility seemed very unlikely, which made mefeel better about lying.“I want you to think—to tell me everything you remember,” Carlisle pressedexcitedly, and I couldn’t help the grimace that flashed across my face. I didn’twant to have to keep lying, because I might slip up. And I didn’t want to think
    • 295about the burning. Unlike the human memories, that part was perfectly clear andI found I could remember it with far too much precision.“Oh, I’m so sorry, Bella,” Carlisle apologized immediately. “Of course your thirstmust be very uncomfortable. This conversation can wait.”Until he’d mentioned it, the thirst actually wasn’t unmanageable. There was somuch room in my head. A separate part of my brain was keeping tabs on the burnin my throat, almost like a reflex. The way my old brain had handled breathingand blinking.But Carlisle’s assumption brought the burn to the forefront of my mind.Suddenly, the dry ache was all I could think about, and the more I thought aboutit, the more it hurt. My hand flew up to cup my throat, like I could smother theflames from the outside. The skin of my neck was strange beneath my fingers. Sosmooth it was somehow soft, though it was hard as stone, too.Edward dropped his arms and took my other hand, tugging gently. “Let’s hunt,Bella.”My eyes opened wider and the pain of the thirst receded, shock taking its place.Me? Hunt? With Edward? But… how? I didn’t know what to do.He read the alarm in my expression and smiled encouragingly. “It’s quite easy,love. Instinctual. Don’t worry, I’ll show you.” When I didn’t move, he grinned hiscrooked smile and raised his eyebrows. “I was under the impression that you’dalways wanted to see me hunt.”I laughed in a short burst of humor (part of me listened in wonder to the pealingbell sound) as his words reminded me of cloudy human conversations. And then Itook a whole second to run quickly through those first days with Edward—thetrue beginning of my life—in my head so that I would never forget them. I did notexpect that it would be so uncomfortable to remember. Like trying to squintthrough muddy water. I knew from Rosalie’s experience that if I thought of myhuman memories enough, I would not lose them over time. I did not want toforget one minute I’d spent with Edward, even now, when eternity stretched infront of us. I would have to make sure those human memories were cementedinto my infallible vampire mind.“Shall we?” Edward asked. He reached up to take the hand that was still at myneck. His fingers smoothed down the column of my throat. “I don’t want you tobe hurting,” he added in a low murmur. Something I would not have been able tohear before.“I’m fine,” I said out of lingering human habit. “Wait. First.”
    • 296There was so much. I’d never gotten to my questions. There were more importantthings than the ache.It was Carlisle who spoke now. “Yes?”“I want to see her. Renesmee.”It was oddly difficult to say her name. My daughter; these words were evenharder to think. It all seemed so distant. I tried to remember how I had felt threedays ago, and automatically, my hands pulled free of Edward’s and dropped tomy stomach.Flat. Empty. I clutched at the pale silk that covered my skin, panicking again,while an insignificant part of my mind noted that Alice must have dressed me.I knew there was nothing left inside me, and I faintly remembered the bloodyremoval scene, but the physical proof was still hard to process. All I knew wasloving my little nudger inside of me. Outside of me, she seemed like something Imust have imagined. A fading dream—a dream that was half nightmare.While I wrestled with my confusion, I saw Edward and Carlisle exchange aguarded glance.“What?” I demanded.“Bella,” Edward said soothingly. “That’s not really a good idea. She’s half human,love. Her heart beats, and blood runs in her veins. Until your thirst is positivelyunder control… You don’t want to put her in danger, do you?”I frowned. Of course I must not want that.Was I out of control? Confused, yes. Easily unfocused, yes. But dangerous? Toher? My daughter?I couldn’t be positive that the answer was no. So I would have to be patient. Thatsounded difficult. Because until I saw her again, she wouldn’t be real. Just afading dream… of a stranger…“Where is she?” I listened hard, and then I could hear the beating heart on thefloor below me. I could hear more than one person breathing—quietly, like theywere listening, too. There was also a fluttering sound, a thrumming, that Icouldn’t place. . . .And the sound of the heartbeat was so moist and appealing, that my mouthstarted watering.
    • 297So I would definitely have to learn how to hunt before I saw her. My strangerbaby.“Is Rosalie with her?”“Yes,” Edward answered in a clipped tone, and I could see that something he’dthought of upset him. I’d thought he and Rose were over their differences. Hadthe animosity erupted again? Before I could ask, he pulled my hands away frommy flat stomach, tugging gently again.“Wait,” I protested again, trying to focus. “What about Jacob? And Charlie? Tellme everything that I missed. How long was I… unconscious?”Edward didn’t seem to notice my hesitation over the last word. Instead, he wasexchanging another wary glance with Carlisle.“What’s wrong?” I whispered.“Nothing is wrong,” Carlisle told me, emphasizing the last word in a strange way.“Nothing has changed much, actually—you were only unaware for just over twodays. It was very fast, as these things go. Edward did an excellent job. Quiteinnovative—the venom injection straight to your heart was his idea.” He pausedto smile proudly at his son and then sighed. “Jacob is still here, and Charlie stillbelieves that you are sick. He thinks you’re in Atlanta right now, undergoing testsat the CDC. We gave him a bad number, and he’s frustrated. He’s been speakingto Esme.”“I should call him…,” I murmured to myself, but, listening to my own voice, Iunderstood the new difficulties. He wouldn’t recognize this voice. It wouldn’treassure him. And then the earlier surprise intruded. “Hold on—Jacob is stillhere?”Another glance between them.“Bella,” Edward said quickly. “There’s much to discuss, but we should take care ofyou first. You have to be in pain. . . .”When he pointed that out, I remembered the burn in my throat and swallowedconvulsively. “But Jacob—”“We have all the time in the world for explanations, love,” he reminded megently.Of course. I could wait a little longer for the answer; it would be easier to listenwhen the fierce pain of the fiery thirst was no longer scattering my concentration.“Okay.”
    • 298“Wait, wait, wait,” Alice trilled from the doorway. She danced across the room,dreamily graceful. As with Edward and Carlisle, I felt some shock as I reallylooked at her face for the first time. So lovely. “You promised I could be there thefirst time! What if you two run past something reflective?”“Alice—,” Edward protested.“It will only take a second!” And with that, Alice darted from the room.Edward sighed.“What is she talking about?”But Alice was already back, carrying the huge, gilt-framed mirror from Rosalie’sroom, which was nearly twice as tall as she was, and several times as wide.Jasper had been so still and silent that I’d taken no notice of him since he’dfollowed behind Carlisle. Now he moved again, to hover over Alice, his eyeslocked on my expression. Because I was the danger here.I knew he would be tasting the mood around me, too, and so he must have felt myjolt of shock as I studied his face, looking at it closely for the first time.Through my sightless human eyes, the scars left from his former life with thenewborn armies in the South had been mostly invisible. Only with a bright lightto throw their slightly raised shapes into definition could I even make out theirexistence.Now that I could see, the scars were Jasper’s most dominant feature. It was hardto take my eyes off his ravaged neck and jaw—hard to believe that even a vampirecould have survived so many sets of teeth ripping into his throat.Instinctively, I tensed to defend myself. Any vampire who saw Jasper would havehad the same reaction. The scars were like a lighted billboard. Dangerous, theyscreamed. How many vampires had tried to kill Jasper? Hundreds?Thousands? The same number that had died in the attempt.Jasper both saw and felt my assessment, my caution, and he smiled wryly.“Edward gave me grief for not getting you to a mirror before the wedding,” Alicesaid, pulling my attention away from her frightening lover. “I’m not going to bechewed out again.”“Chewed out?” Edward asked skeptically, one eyebrow curving upward.“Maybe I’m overstating things,” she murmured absently as she turned the mirrorto face me.
    • 299“And maybe this has solely to do with your own voyeuristic gratification,” hecountered.Alice winked at him.I was only aware of this exchange with the lesser part of my concentration. Thegreater part was riveted on the person in the mirror.My first reaction was an unthinking pleasure. The alien creature in the glass wasindisputably beautiful, every bit as beautiful as Alice or Esme. She was fluid evenin stillness, and her flawless face was pale as the moon against the frame of herdark, heavy hair. Her limbs were smooth and strong, skin glistening subtly,luminous as a pearl.My second reaction was horror.Who was she? At first glance, I couldn’t find my face anywhere in the smooth,perfect planes of her features.And her eyes! Though I’d known to expect them, her eyes still sent a thrill ofterror through me.All the while I studied and reacted, her face was perfectly composed, a carving ofa goddess, showing nothing of the turmoil roiling inside me. And then her fulllips moved.“The eyes?” I whispered, unwilling to say my eyes. “How long?“They’ll darken up in a few months,” Edward said in a soft, comforting voice.“Animal blood dilutes the color more quickly than a diet of human blood. They’llturn amber first, then gold.”My eyes would blaze like vicious red flames for months?“Months?” My voice was higher now, stressed. In the mirror, the perfecteyebrows lifted incredulously above her glowing crimson eyes—brighter than anyI’d ever seen before.Jasper took a step forward, alarmed by the intensity of my sudden anxiety. Heknew young vampires only too well; did this emotion presage some misstep onmy part?No one answered my question. I looked away, to Edward and Alice. Both theireyes were slightly unfocused—reacting to Jasper’s unease. Listening to its cause,looking ahead to the immediate future.I took another deep, unnecessary breath.
    • 300“No, I’m fine,” I promised them. My eyes flickered to the stranger in the mirrorand back. “It’s just… a lot to take in.”Jasper’s brow furrowed, highlighting the two scars over his left eye.“I don’t know,” Edward murmured.The woman in the mirror frowned. “What question did I miss?”Edward grinned. “Jasper wonders how you’re doing it.”“Doing what?”“Controlling your emotions, Bella,” Jasper answered. “I’ve never seen a newborndo that—stop an emotion in its tracks that way. You were upset, but when yousaw our concern, you reined it in, regained power over yourself. I was prepared tohelp, but you didn’t need it.”“Is that wrong?” I asked. My body automatically froze as I waited for his verdict.“No,” he said, but his voice was unsure.Edward stroked his hand down my arm, as if encouraging me to thaw. “It’s veryimpressive, Bella, but we don’t understand it. We don’t know how long it canhold.”I considered that for a portion of a second. At any moment, would I snap? Turninto a monster?I couldn’t feel it coming on.… Maybe there was no way to anticipate such a thing.“But what do you think?” Alice asked, a little impatient now, pointing to themirror.“I’m not sure,” I hedged, not wanting to admit how frightened I really was.I stared at the beautiful woman with the terrifying eyes, looking for pieces of me.There was something there in the shape of her lips—if you looked past thedizzying beauty, it was true that her upper lip was slightly out of balance, a bit toofull to match the lower. Finding this familiar little flaw made me feel a tiny bitbetter. Maybe the rest of me was in there, too.I raised my hand experimentally, and the woman in the mirror copied themovement, touching her face, too. Her crimson eyes watched me warily.Edward sighed.
    • 301I turned away from her to look at him, raising one eyebrow.“Disappointed?” I asked, my ringing voice impassive.He laughed. “Yes,” he admitted.I felt the shock break through the composed mask on my face, followed instantlyby the hurt.Alice snarled. Jasper leaned forward again, waiting for me to snap.But Edward ignored them and wrapped his arms tightly around my newly frozenform, pressing his lips against my cheek. “I was rather hoping that I’d be able tohear your mind, now that it is more similar to my own,” he murmured. “And hereI am, as frustrated as ever, wondering what could possibly be going on insideyour head.”I felt better at once.“Oh well,” I said lightly, relieved that my thoughts were still my own. “I guess mybrain will never work right. At least I’m pretty.”It was becoming easier to joke with him as I adjusted, to think in straight lines.To be myself.Edward growled in my ear. “Bella, you have never been merely pretty.”Then his face pulled away from mine, and he sighed. “All right, all right,” he saidto someone.“What?” I asked.“You’re making Jasper more edgy by the second. He may relax a little whenyou’ve hunted.”I looked at Jasper’s worried expression and nodded. I didn’t want to snap here, ifthat was coming. Better to be surrounded by trees than family.“Okay. Let’s hunt,” I agreed, a thrill of nerves and anticipation making mystomach quiver. I unwrapped Edward’s arms from around me, keeping one of hishands, and turned my back on the strange and beautiful woman in the mirror.
    • 302 21. FIRST HUNT“The window?” I asked, staring two stories down.I’d never really been afraid of heights per se, but being able to see all the detailswith such clarity made the prospect less appealing. The angles of the rocks belowwere sharper than I would have imagined them.Edward smiled. “It’s the most convenient exit. If you’re frightened, I can carryyou.”“We have all eternity, and you’re worried about the time it would take to walk tothe back door?”He frowned slightly. “Renesmee and Jacob are downstairs. . . .”“Oh.”Right. I was the monster now. I had to keep away from scents that might triggermy wild side. From the people that I loved in particular. Even the ones I didn’treally know yet.“Is Renesmee… okay… with Jacob there?” I whispered. I realized belatedly that itmust have been Jacob’s heart I’d heard below. I listened hard again, but I couldonly hear the one steady pulse. “He doesn’t like her much.”Edward’s lips tightened in an odd way. “Trust me, she is perfectly safe. I knowexactly what Jacob is thinking.”“Of course,” I murmured, and looked at the ground again.“Stalling?” he challenged.“A little. I don’t know how. . . .”And I was very conscious of my family behind me, watching silently. Mostlysilently. Emmett had already chuckled under his breath once. One mistake, andhe’d be rolling on the floor. Then the jokes about the world’s only clumsy vampirewould start.…Also, this dress—that Alice must have put me in sometime when I was too lost inthe burning to notice—was not what I would have picked out for either jumpingor hunting. Tightly fitted ice-blue silk? What did she think I would need it for?Was there a cocktail party later?
    • 303“Watch me,” Edward said. And then, very casually, he stepped out of the tall,open window and fell.I watched carefully, analyzing the angle at which he bent his knees to absorb theimpact. The sound of his landing was very low—a muted thud that could havebeen a door softly closed, or a book gently laid on a table.It didn’t look hard.Clenching my teeth as I concentrated, I tried to copy his casual step into emptyair.Ha! The ground seemed to move toward me so slowly that it was nothing at all toplace my feet—what shoes had Alice put me in? Stilettos? She’d lost her mind—toplace my silly shoes exactly right so that landing was no different than steppingone foot forward on a flat surface.I absorbed the impact in the balls of my feet, not wanting to snap off the thinheels. My landing seemed just as quiet as his. I grinned at him.“Right. Easy.”He smiled back. “Bella?”“Yes?”“That was quite graceful—even for a vampire.”I considered that for a moment, and then I beamed. If he’d just been saying that,then Emmett would have laughed. No one found his remark humorous, so it musthave been true. It was the first time anyone had ever applied the word graceful tome in my entire life… or, well, existence anyway.“Thank you,” I told him.And then I hooked the silver satin shoes off my feet one by one and lobbed themtogether back through the open window. A little too hard, maybe, but I heardsomeone catch them before they could damage the paneling.Alice grumbled, “Her fashion sense hasn’t improved as much as her balance.”Edward took my hand—I couldn’t stop marveling at the smoothness, thecomfortable temperature of his skin—and darted through the backyard to theedge of the river. I went along with him effortlessly.Everything physical seemed very simple.
    • 304“Are we swimming?” I asked him when we stopped beside the water.“And ruin your pretty dress? No. We’re jumping.”I pursed my lips, considering. The river was about fifty yards wide here.“You first,” I said.He touched my cheek, took two quick backward strides, and then ran back thosetwo steps, launching himself from a flat stone firmly embedded in the riverbank.I studied the flash of movement as he arced over the water, finally turning asomersault just before he disappeared into the thick trees on the other side of theriver.“Show-off,” I muttered, and heard his invisible laugh.I backed up five paces, just in case, and took a deep breath.Suddenly, I was anxious again. Not about falling or getting hurt—I was moreworried about the forest getting hurt.It had come on slowly, but I could feel it now—the raw, massive strength thrillingin my limbs. I was suddenly sure that if I wanted to tunnel under the river, toclaw or beat my way straight through the bedrock, it wouldn’t take me very long.The objects around me—the trees, the shrubs, the rocks… the house—had allbegun to look very fragile.Hoping very much that Esme was not particularly fond of any specific treesacross the river, I began my first stride. And then stopped when the tight satinsplit six inches up my thigh. Alice!Well, Alice always seemed to treat clothes as if they were disposable and meantfor one-time usage, so she shouldn’t mind this. I bent to carefully grasp the hemat the undamaged right seam between my fingers and, exerting the tiniestamount of pressure possible, I ripped the dress open to the top of my thigh. ThenI fixed the other side to match.Much better.I could hear the muffled laughter in the house, and even the sound of someonegritting her teeth. The laughter came from upstairs and down, and I very easilyrecognized the much different, rough, throaty chuckle from the first floor.So Jacob was watching, too? I couldn’t imagine what he was thinking now, orwhat he was still doing here. I’d envisioned our reunion—if he could ever forgiveme—taking place far in the future, when I was more stable, and time had healedthe wounds I’d inflicted in his heart.
    • 305I didn’t turn to look at him now, wary of my mood swings. It wouldn’t be good tolet any emotion take too strong a hold on my frame of mind. Jasper’s fears hadme on edge, too. I had to hunt before I dealt with anything else. I tried to forgeteverything else so I could concentrate.“Bella?” Edward called from the woods, his voice moving closer. “Do you want towatch again?”But I remembered everything perfectly, of course, and I didn’t want to giveEmmett a reason to find more humor in my education. This was physical—itshould be instinctive. So I took a deep breath and ran for the river.Unhindered by my skirt, it took only one long bound to reach the water’s edge.Just an eighty-fourth of a second, and yet it was plenty of time—my eyes and mymind moved so quickly that one step was enough. It was simple to position myright foot just so against the flat stone and exert the adequate pressure to sendmy body wheeling up into the air. I was paying more attention to aim than force,and I erred on the amount of power necessary—but at least I didn’t err on the sidethat would have gotten me wet. The fifty yard width was slightly too easy adistance. . . .It was a strange, giddy, electrifying thing, but a short thing. An entire second hadyet to pass, and I was across.I was expecting the close-packed trees to be a problem, but they were surprisinglyhelpful. It was a simple matter to reach out with one sure hand as I fell backtoward the earth again deep inside the forest and catch myself on a convenientbranch; I swung lightly from the limb and landed on my toes, still fifteen feetfrom the ground on the wide bough of a Sitka spruce.It was fabulous.Over the sound of my peals of delighted laughter, I could hear Edward racing tofind me. My jump had been twice as long as his. When he reached my tree, hiseyes were wide. I leaped nimbly from the branch to his side, soundlessly landingagain on the balls of my feet.“Was that good?” I wondered, my breathing accelerated with excitement.“Very good.” He smiled approvingly, but his casual tone didn’t match thesurprised expression in his eyes.“Can we do it again?”“Focus, Bella—we’re on a hunting trip.”“Oh, right.” I nodded. “Hunting.”
    • 306“Follow me… if you can.” He grinned, his expression suddenly taunting, andbroke into a run.He was faster than me. I couldn’t imagine how he moved his legs with suchblinding speed, but it was beyond me. However, I was stronger, and every strideof mine matched the length of three of his. And so I flew with him through theliving green web, by his side, not following at all. As I ran, I couldn’t helplaughing quietly at the thrill of it; the laughter neither slowed me nor upset myfocus.I could finally understand why Edward never hit the trees when he ran—aquestion that had always been a mystery to me. It was a peculiar sensation, thebalance between the speed and the clarity. For, while I rocketed over, under, andthrough the thick jade maze at a rate that should have reduced everything aroundme to a streaky green blur, I could plainly see each tiny leaf on all the smallbranches of every insignificant shrub that I passed.The wind of my speed blew my hair and my torn dress out behind me, and,though I knew it shouldn’t, it felt warm against my skin. Just as the rough forestfloor shouldn’t feel like velvet beneath my bare soles, and the limbs that whippedagainst my skin shouldn’t feel like caressing feathers.The forest was much more alive than I’d ever known—small creatures whoseexistence I’d never guessed at teemed in the leaves around me. They all grewsilent after we passed, their breath quickening in fear. The animals had a muchwiser reaction to our scent than humans seemed to. Certainly, it’d had theopposite effect on me.I kept waiting to feel winded, but my breath came effortlessly. I waited for theburn to begin in my muscles, but my strength only seemed to increase as I grewaccustomed to my stride. My leaping bounds stretched longer, and soon he wastrying to keep up with me. I laughed again, exultant, when I heard him fallingbehind. My naked feet touched the ground so infrequently now it felt more likeflying than running.“Bella,” he called dryly, his voice even, lazy. I could hear nothing else; he hadstopped.I briefly considered mutiny.But, with a sigh, I whirled and skipped lightly to his side, some hundred yardsback. I looked at him expectantly. He was smiling, with one eyebrow raised. Hewas so beautiful that I could only stare.“Did you want to stay in the country?” he asked, amused. “Or were you planningto continue on to Canada this afternoon?”
    • 307“This is fine,” I agreed, concentrating less on what he was saying and more on themesmerizing way his lips moved when he spoke. It was hard not to becomesidetracked with everything fresh in my strong new eyes. “What are we hunting?”“Elk. I thought something easy for your first time . . .” He trailed off when myeyes narrowed at the word easy.But I wasn’t going to argue; I was too thirsty. As soon as I’d started to think aboutthe dry burn in my throat, it was all I could think about. Definitely getting worse.My mouth felt like four o’clock on a June afternoon in Death Valley.“Where?” I asked, scanning the trees impatiently. Now that I had given the thirstmy attention, it seemed to taint every other thought in my head, leaking into themore pleasant thoughts of running and Edward’s lips and kissing and… scorchingthirst. I couldn’t get away from it.“Hold still for a minute,” he said, putting his hands lightly on my shoulders. Theurgency of my thirst receded momentarily at his touch.“Now close your eyes,” he murmured. When I obeyed, he raised his hands to myface, stroking my cheekbones. I felt my breathing speed and waited briefly againfor the blush that wouldn’t come.“Listen,” Edward instructed. “What do you hear?”Everything, I could have said; his perfect voice, his breath, his lips brushingtogether as he spoke, the whisper of birds preening their feathers in the treetops,their fluttering heartbeats, the maple leaves scraping together, the faint clickingof ants following each other in a long line up the bark of the nearest tree. But Iknew he meant something specific, so I let my ears range outward, seekingsomething different than the small hum of life that surrounded me. There was anopen space near us—the wind had a different sound across the exposed grass—and a small creek, with a rocky bed. And there, near the noise of the water, wasthe splash of lapping tongues, the loud thudding of heavy hearts, pumping thickstreams of blood. . . .It felt like the sides of my throat had sucked closed.“By the creek, to the northeast?” I asked, my eyes still shut.“Yes.” His tone was approving. “Now… wait for the breeze again and… what doyou smell?”Mostly him—his strange honey-lilac-and-sun perfume. But also the rich, earthysmell of rot and moss, the resin in the evergreens, the warm, almost nutty aromaof the small rodents cowering beneath the tree roots. And then, reaching outagain, the clean smell of the water, which was surprisingly unappealing despite
    • 308my thirst. I focused toward the water and found the scent that must have gonewith the lapping noise and the pounding heart. Another warm smell, rich andtangy, stronger than the others. And yet nearly as unappealing as the brook. Iwrinkled my nose.He chuckled. “I know—it takes some getting used to.”“Three?” I guessed.“Five. There are two more in the trees behind them.”“What do I do now?”His voice sounded like he was smiling. “What do you feel like doing?”I thought about that, my eyes still shut as I listened and breathed in the scent.Another bout of baking thirst intruded on my awareness, and suddenly the warm,tangy odor wasn’t quite so objectionable. At least it would be something hot andwet in my desiccated mouth. My eyes snapped open.“Don’t think about it,” he suggested as he lifted his hands off my face and took astep back. “Just follow your instincts.”I let myself drift with the scent, barely aware of my movement as I ghosted downthe incline to the narrow meadow where the stream flowed. My body shiftedforward automatically into a low crouch as I hesitated at the fern-fringed edge ofthe trees. I could see a big buck, two dozen antler points crowning his head, at thestream’s edge, and the shadow-spotted shapes of the four others headingeastward into forest at a leisurely pace.I centered myself around the scent of the male, the hot spot in his shaggy neckwhere the warmth pulsed strongest. Only thirty yards—two or three bounds—between us. I tensed myself for the first leap.But as my muscles bunched in preparation, the wind shifted, blowing strongernow, and from the south. I didn’t stop to think, hurtling out of the trees in a pathperpendicular to my original plan, scaring the elk into the forest, racing after anew fragrance so attractive that there wasn’t a choice. It was compulsory.The scent ruled completely. I was single-minded as I traced it, aware only of thethirst and the smell that promised to quench it. The thirst got worse, so painfulnow that it confused all my other thoughts and began to remind me of the burn ofvenom in my veins.There was only one thing that had any chance of penetrating my focus now, aninstinct more powerful, more basic than the need to quench the fire—it was theinstinct to protect myself from danger. Self-preservation.
    • 309I was suddenly alert to the fact that I was being followed. The pull of theirresistible scent warred with the impulse to turn and defend my hunt. A bubbleof sound built in my chest, my lips pulled back of their own accord to expose myteeth in warning. My feet slowed, the need to protect my back struggling againstthe desire to quench my thirst.And then I could hear my pursuer gaining, and defense won. As I spun, the risingsound ripped its way up my throat and out.The feral snarl, coming from my own mouth, was so unexpected that it broughtme up short. It unsettled me, and it cleared my head for a second—the thirst-driven haze receded, though the thirst burned on.The wind shifted, blowing the smell of wet earth and coming rain across my face,further freeing me from the other scent’s fiery grip—a scent so delicious it couldonly be human.Edward hesitated a few feet away, his arms raised as if to embrace me—orrestrain me. His face was intent and cautious as I froze, horrified.I realized that I had been about to attack him. With a hard jerk, I straightened outof my defensive crouch. I held my breath as I refocused, fearing the power of thefragrance swirling up from the south.He could see reason return to my face, and he took a step toward me, lowering hisarms.“I have to get away from here,” I spit through my teeth, using the breath I had.Shock crossed his face. “Can you leave?”I didn’t have time to ask him what he meant by that. I knew the ability to thinkclearly would last only as long as I could stop myself from thinking of—I burst into a run again, a flat-out sprint straight north, concentrating solely onthe uncomfortable feeling of sensory deprivation that seemed to be my body’sonly response to the lack of air. My one goal was to run far enough away that thescent behind me would be completely lost. Impossible to find, even if I changedmy mind…Once again, I was aware of being followed, but I was sane this time. I fought theinstinct to breathe—to use the flavors in the air to be sure it was Edward. I didn’thave to fight long; though I was running faster than I ever had before, shootinglike a comet through the straightest path I could find in the trees; Edward caughtup with me after a short minute.
    • 310A new thought occurred to me, and I stopped dead, my feet planted. I was sure itmust be safe here, but I held my breath just in case.Edward blew past me, surprised by my sudden freeze. He wheeled around andwas at my side in a second. He put his hands on my shoulders and stared into myeyes, shock still the dominant emotion on his face.“How did you do that?” he demanded.“You let me beat you before, didn’t you?” I demanded back, ignoring his question.And I’d thought I’d been doing so well!When I opened my mouth, I could taste the air—it was unpolluted now, with notrace of the compelling perfume to torment my thirst. I took a cautious breath.He shrugged and shook his head, refusing to be deflected. “Bella, how did you doit?”“Run away? I held my breath.”“But how did you stop hunting?”“When you came up behind me… I’m so sorry about that.”“Why are you apologizing to me? I’m the one who was horribly careless. Iassumed no one would be so far from the trails, but I should have checked first.Such a stupid mistake! You have nothing to apologize for.”“But I growled at you!” I was still horrified that I was physically capable of suchblasphemy.“Of course you did. That’s only natural. But I can’t understand how you ranaway.”“What else could I do?” I asked. His attitude confused me—what did he want tohave happened? “It might have been someone I know!”He startled me, suddenly bursting into a spasm of loud laughter, throwing hishead back and letting the sound echo off the trees.“Why are you laughing at me?”He stopped at once, and I could see he was wary again.Keep it under control, I thought to myself. I had to watch my temper. Just like Iwas a young werewolf rather than a vampire.
    • 311“I’m not laughing at you, Bella. I’m laughing because I am in shock. And I am inshock because I am completely amazed.”“Why?”“You shouldn’t be able to do any of this. You shouldn’t be so… so rational. Youshouldn’t be able to stand here discussing this with me calmly and coolly. And,much more than any of that, you should not have been able to break off mid-huntwith the scent of human blood in the air. Even mature vampires have difficultywith that—we’re always very careful of where we hunt so as not to put ourselvesin the path of temptation. Bella, you’re behaving like you’re decades rather thandays old.”“Oh.” But I’d known it was going to be hard. That was why I’d been so on guard.I’d been expecting it to be difficult.He put his hands on my face again, and his eyes were full of wonder. “Whatwouldn’t I give to be able to see into your mind for just this one moment.”Such powerful emotions. I’d been prepared for the thirst part, but not this. I’dbeen so sure it wouldn’t be the same when he touched me. Well, truthfully, itwasn’t the same.It was stronger.I reached up to trace the planes of his face; my fingers lingered on his lips.“I thought I wouldn’t feel this way for a long time?” My uncertainty made thewords a question. “But I still want you.”He blinked in shock. “How can you even concentrate on that? Aren’t youunbearably thirsty?”Of course I was now, now that he’d brought it up again!I tried to swallow and then sighed, closing my eyes like I had before to help meconcentrate. I let my senses range out around me, tensed this time in case ofanother onslaught of the delicious taboo scent.Edward dropped his hands, not even breathing while I listened farther andfarther out into the web of green life, sifting through the scents and sounds forsomething not totally repellant to my thirst. There was a hint of somethingdifferent, a faint trail to the east. . . .My eyes flashed open, but my focus was still on sharper senses as I turned anddarted silently eastward. The ground sloped steeply upward almost at once, and Iran in a hunting crouch, close to the ground, taking to the trees when that was
    • 312easier. I sensed rather than heard Edward with me, flowing quietly through thewoods, letting me lead.The vegetation thinned as we climbed higher; the scent of pitch and resin grewmore powerful, as did the trail I followed—it was a warm scent, sharper than thesmell of the elk and more appealing. A few seconds more and I could hear themuted padding of immense feet, so much subtler than the crunch of hooves. Thesound was up—in the branches rather than on the ground. Automatically I dartedinto the boughs as well, gaining the strategic higher position, halfway up atowering silver fir.The soft thud of paws continued stealthily beneath me now; the rich scent wasvery close. My eyes pinpointed the movement linked with the sound, and I sawthe tawny hide of the great cat slinking along the wide branch of a spruce justdown and to the left of my perch. He was big—easily four times my mass. His eyeswere intent on the ground beneath; the cat hunted, too. I caught the smell ofsomething smaller, bland next to the aroma of my prey, cowering in brush belowthe tree. The lion’s tail twitched spasmodically as he prepared to spring.With a light bound, I sailed through the air and landed on the lion’s branch. Hefelt the shiver of the wood and whirled, shrieking surprise and defiance. Heclawed the space between us, his eyes bright with fury. Half-crazed with thirst, Iignored the exposed fangs and the hooked claws and launched myself at him,knocking us both to the forest floor.It wasn’t much of a fight.His raking claws could have been caressing fingers for all the impact they had onmy skin. His teeth could find no purchase against my shoulder or my throat. Hisweight was nothing. My teeth unerringly sought his throat, and his instinctiveresistance was pitifully feeble against my strength. My jaws locked easily over theprecise point where the heat flow concentrated.It was effortless as biting into butter. My teeth were steel razors; they cut throughthe fur and fat and sinews like they weren’t there.The flavor was wrong, but the blood was hot and wet and it soothed the ragged,itching thirst as I drank in an eager rush. The cat’s struggles grew more and morefeeble, and his screams choked off with a gurgle. The warmth of the bloodradiated throughout my whole body, heating even my fingertips and toes.The lion was finished before I was. The thirst flared again when he ran dry, and Ishoved his carcass off my body in disgust. How could I still be thirsty after allthat?I wrenched myself erect in one quick move. Standing, I realized I was a bit of amess. I wiped my face off on the back of my arm and tried to fix the dress. The
    • 313claws that had been so ineffectual against my skin had had more success with thethin satin.“Hmm,” Edward said. I looked up to see him leaning casually against a treetrunk, watching me with a thoughtful look on his face.“I guess I could have done that better.” I was covered in dirt, my hair knotted, mydress bloodstained and hanging in tatters. Edward didn’t come home fromhunting trips looking like this.“You did perfectly fine,” he assured me. “It’s just that… it was much more difficultfor me to watch than it should have been.”I raised my eyebrows, confused.“It goes against the grain,” he explained, “letting you wrestle with lions. I washaving an anxiety attack the whole time.”“Silly.”“I know. Old habits die hard. I like the improvements to your dress, though.”If I could have blushed, I would have. I changed the subject. “Why am I stillthirsty?”“Because you’re young.”I sighed. “And I don’t suppose there are any other mountain lions nearby.”“Plenty of deer, though.”I made a face. “They don’t smell as good.”“Herbivores. The meat-eaters smell more like humans,” he explained.“Not that much like humans,” I disagreed, trying not to remember.“We could go back,” he said solemnly, but there was a teasing light in his eye.“Whoever it was out there, if they were men, they probably wouldn’t even minddeath if you were the one delivering it.” His gaze ran over my ravaged dress again.“In fact, they would think they were already dead and gone to heaven the momentthey saw you.”I rolled my eyes and snorted. “Let’s go hunt some stinking herbivores.”We found a large herd of mule deer as we ran back toward home. He hunted withme this time, now that I’d gotten the hang of it. I brought down a large buck,
    • 314making nearly as much of a mess as I had with the lion. He’d finished with twobefore I was done with the first, not a hair ruffled, not a spot on his white shirt.We chased the scattered and terrified herd, but instead of feeding again, this timeI watched carefully to see how he was able to hunt so neatly.All the times that I had wished that Edward would not have to leave me behindwhen he hunted, I had secretly been just a little relieved. Because I was sure thatseeing this would be frightening. Horrifying. That seeing him hunt would finallymake him look like a vampire to me.Of course, it was much different from this perspective, as a vampire myself. But Idoubted that even my human eyes would have missed the beauty here.It was a surprisingly sensual experience to observe Edward hunting. His smoothspring was like the sinuous strike of a snake; his hands were so sure, so strong, socompletely inescapable; his full lips were perfect as they parted gracefully overhis gleaming teeth. He was glorious. I felt a sudden jolt of both pride and desire.He was mine. Nothing could ever separate him from me now. I was too strong tobe torn from his side.He was very quick. He turned to me and gazed curiously at my gloatingexpression.“No longer thirsty?” he asked.I shrugged. “You distracted me. You’re much better at it than I am.”“Centuries of practice.” He smiled. His eyes were a disconcertingly lovely shade ofhoney gold now.“Just one,” I corrected him.He laughed. “Are you done for today? Or did you want to continue?”“Done, I think.” I felt very full, sort of sloshy, even. I wasn’t sure how much moreliquid would fit into my body. But the burn in my throat was only muted. Thenagain, I’d known that thirst was just an inescapable part of this life.And worth it.I felt in control. Perhaps my sense of security was false, but I did feel pretty goodabout not killing anyone today. If I could resist totally human strangers, wouldn’tI be able to handle the werewolf and a half-vampire child that I loved?“I want to see Renesmee,” I said. Now that my thirst was tamed (if nothing closeto erased), my earlier worries were hard to forget. I wanted to reconcile thestranger who was my daughter with the creature I’d loved three days ago. It was
    • 315so odd, so wrong not to have her inside me still. Abruptly, I felt empty anduneasy.He held out his hand to me. I took it, and his skin felt warmer than before. Hischeek was faintly flushed, the shadows under his eyes all but vanished.I was unable to resist stroking his face again. And again.I sort of forgot that I was waiting for a response to my request as I stared into hisshimmering gold eyes.It was almost as hard as it had been to turn away from the scent of human blood,but I somehow kept the need to be careful firmly in my head as I stretched up onmy toes and wrapped my arms around him. Gently.He was not so hesitant in his movements; his arms locked around my waist andpulled me tight against his body. His lips crushed down on mine, but they feltsoft. My lips no longer shaped themselves around his; they held their own.Like before, it was as if the touch of his skin, his lips, his hands, was sinking rightthrough my smooth, hard skin and into my new bones. To the very core of mybody. I hadn’t imagined that I could love him more than I had.My old mind hadn’t been capable of holding this much love. My old heart had notbeen strong enough to bear it.Maybe this was the part of me that I’d brought forward to be intensified in mynew life. Like Carlisle’s compassion and Esme’s devotion. I would probably neverbe able to do anything interesting or special like Edward, Alice, and Jasper coulddo. Maybe I would just love Edward more than anyone in the history of the worldhad ever loved anyone else.I could live with that.I remembered parts of this—twisting my fingers in his hair, tracing the planes ofhis chest—but other parts were so new. He was new. It was an entirely differentexperience with Edward kissing me so fearlessly, so forcefully. I responded to hisintensity, and then suddenly we were falling.“Oops,” I said, and he laughed underneath me. “I didn’t mean to tackle you likethat. Are you okay?”He stroked my face. “Slightly better than okay.” And then a perplexed expressioncrossed his face. “Renesmee?” he asked uncertainly, trying to ascertain what Iwanted most in this moment. A very difficult question to answer, because Iwanted so many things at the same time.
    • 316I could tell that he wasn’t exactly averse to procrastinating our return trip, and itwas hard to think about much besides his skin on mine—there really wasn’t thatmuch left of the dress. But my memory of Renesmee, before and after her birth,was becoming more and more dreamlike to me. More unlikely. All my memoriesof her were human memories; an aura of artificiality clung to them. Nothingseemed real that I hadn’t seen with these eyes, touched with these hands.Every minute, the reality of that little stranger slipped further away.“Renesmee,” I agreed, rueful, and I whipped back up onto my feet, pulling himwith me.
    • 317 22. PROMISEDThinking of Renesmee brought her to that center-stage place in my strange, new,and roomy but distractible mind. So many questions.“Tell me about her,” I insisted as he took my hand. Being linked barely slowed us.“She’s like nothing else in the world,” he told me, and the sound of an almostreligious devotion was there again in his voice.I felt a sharp pang of jealousy over this stranger. He knew her and I did not. Itwasn’t fair.“How much is she like you? How much like me? Or like I was, anyway.”“It seems a fairly even divide.”“She was warm-blooded,” I remembered.“Yes. She has a heartbeat, though it runs a little bit faster than a human’s. Hertemperature is a little bit hotter than usual, too. She sleeps.”“Really?”“Quite well for a newborn. The only parents in the world who don’t need sleep,and our child already sleeps through the night.” He chuckled.I liked the way he said our child. The words made her more real.“She has exactly your color eyes—so that didn’t get lost, after all.” He smiled atme. “They’re so beautiful.”“And the vampire parts?” I asked.“Her skin seems about as impenetrable as ours. Not that anyone would dream oftesting that.”I blinked at him, a little shocked.“Of course no one would,” he assured me again. “Her diet… well, she prefers todrink blood. Carlisle continues to try to persuade her to drink some baby formula,too, but she doesn’t have much patience with it. Can’t say that I blame her—nasty-smelling stuff, even for human food.”I gaped openly at him now. He made it sound like they were havingconversations. “Persuade her?”
    • 318“She’s intelligent, shockingly so, and progressing at an immense pace. Thoughshe doesn’t speak—yet—she communicates quite effectively.”“Doesn’t. Speak. Yet.”He slowed our pace further, letting me absorb this.“What do you mean, she communicates effectively?” I demanded.“I think it will be easier for you to… see for yourself. It’s rather difficult todescribe.”I considered that. I knew there was a lot that I needed to see for myself before itwould be real. I wasn’t sure how much more I was ready for, so I changed thesubject.“Why is Jacob still here?” I asked. “How can he stand it? Why should he?” Myringing voice trembled a little. “Why should he have to suffer more?”“Jacob isn’t suffering,” he said in a strange new tone. “Though I might be willingto change his condition,” Edward added through his teeth.“Edward!” I hissed, yanking him to a stop (and feeling a little thrill of smugnessthat I was able to do it). “How can you say that? Jacob has given up everything toprotect us! What I’ve put him through—!” I cringed at the dim memory of shameand guilt. It seemed odd now that I had needed him so much then. That sense ofabsence without him near had vanished; it must have been a human weakness.“You’ll see exactly how I can say that,” Edward muttered. “I promised him that Iwould let him explain, but I doubt you’ll see it much differently than I do. Ofcourse, I’m often wrong about your thoughts, aren’t I?” He pursed his lips andeyed me.“Explain what?”Edward shook his head. “I promised. Though I don’t know if I really owe himanything at all anymore. . . .” His teeth ground together.“Edward, I don’t understand.” Frustration and indignation took over my head.He stroked my cheek and then smiled gently when my face smoothed out inresponse, desire momentarily overruling annoyance. “It’s harder than you makeit look, I know. I remember.”“I don’t like feeling confused.”
    • 319“I know. And so let’s get you home, so that you can see it all for yourself.” Hiseyes ran over the remains of my dress as he spoke of going home, and hefrowned. “Hmm.” After a half second of thought, he unbuttoned his white shirtand held it out for me to put my arms through.“That bad?”He grinned.I slipped my arms into his sleeves and then buttoned it swiftly over my raggedbodice. Of course, that left him without a shirt, and it was impossible not to findthat distracting.“I’ll race you,” I said, and then cautioned, “no throwing the game this time!”He dropped my hand and grinned. “On your mark . . .”Finding my way to my new home was simpler than walking down Charlie’s streetto my old one. Our scent left a clear and easy trail to follow, even running as fastas I could.Edward had me beat till we hit the river. I took a chance and made my leap early,trying to use my extra strength to win.“Ha!” I exulted when I heard my feet touch the grass first.Listening for his landing, I heard something I did not expect. Something loud andmuch too close. A thudding heart.Edward was beside me in the same second, his hands clamped down hard on thetops of my arms.“Don’t breathe,” he cautioned me urgently.I tried not to panic as I froze mid-breath. My eyes were the only things thatmoved, wheeling instinctively to find the source of the sound.Jacob stood at the line where the forest touched the Cullens’ lawn, his armsfolded across his body, his jaw clenched tight. Invisible in the woods behind him,I heard now two larger hearts, and the faint crush of bracken under huge, pacingpaws.“Carefully, Jacob,” Edward said. A snarl from the forest echoed the concern in hisvoice. “Maybe this isn’t the best way—”“You think it would be better to let her near the baby first?” Jacob interrupted.“It’s safer to see how Bella does with me. I heal fast.”
    • 320This was a test? To see if I could not kill Jacob before I tried to not killRenesmee? I felt sick in the strangest way—it had nothing to do with my stomach,only my mind. Was this Edward’s idea?I glanced at his face anxiously; Edward seemed to deliberate for a moment, andthen his expression twisted from concern into something else. He shrugged, andthere was an undercurrent of hostility in his voice when he said, “It’s your neck, Iguess.”The growl from the forest was furious this time; Leah, I had no doubt.What was with Edward? After all that we’d been through, shouldn’t he have beenable to feel some kindness for my best friend? I’d thought—maybe foolishly—thatEdward was sort of Jacob’s friend now, too. I must have misread them.But what was Jacob doing? Why would he offer himself as a test to protectRenesmee?It didn’t make any sense to me. Even if our friendship had survived…And as my eyes met Jacob’s now, I thought that maybe it had. He still looked likemy best friend. But he wasn’t the one who had changed. What did I look like tohim?Then he smiled his familiar smile, the smile of a kindred spirit, and I was sure ourfriendship was intact. It was just like before, when we were hanging out in hishomemade garage, just two friends killing time. Easy and normal. Again, Inoticed that the strange need I’d felt for him before I’d changed was completelygone. He was just my friend, the way it was supposed to be.It still made no sense what he was doing now, though. Was he really so selflessthat he would try to protect me—with his own life—from doing something in anuncontrolled split second that I would regret in agony forever? That went waybeyond simply tolerating what I had become, or miraculously managing to staymy friend. Jacob was one of the best people I knew, but this seemed like toomuch to accept from anyone.His grin widened, and he shuddered slightly. “I gotta say it, Bells. You’re a freakshow.”I grinned back, falling easily into the old pattern. This was a side of him Iunderstood.Edward growled. “Watch yourself, mongrel.”The wind blew from behind me and I quickly filled my lungs with the safe air so Icould speak. “No, he’s right. The eyes are really something, aren’t they?”
    • 321“Super-creepy. But it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.”“Gee—thanks for the amazing compliment!”He rolled his eyes. “You know what I mean. You still look like you—sort of. Maybeit’s not the look so much as… you are Bella. I didn’t think it would feel like youwere still here.” He smiled at me again without a trace of bitterness or resentmentanywhere in his face. Then he chuckled and said, “Anyway, I guess I’ll get used tothe eyes soon enough.”“You will?” I asked, confused. It was wonderful that we were still friends, but itwasn’t like we’d be spending much time together.The strangest look crossed his face, erasing the smile. It was almost… guilty?Then his eyes shifted to Edward.“Thanks,” he said. “I didn’t know if you’d be able to keep it from her, promise ornot. Usually, you just give her everything she wants.”“Maybe I’m hoping she’ll get irritated and rip your head off,” Edward suggested.Jacob snorted.“What’s going on? Are you two keeping secrets from me?” I demanded,incredulous.“I’ll explain later,” Jacob said self-consciously—like he didn’t really plan on it.Then he changed the subject. “First, let’s get this show on the road.” His grin wasa challenge now as he started slowly forward.There was a whine of protest behind him, and then Leah’s gray body slid out ofthe trees behind him. The taller, sandy-colored Seth was right behind her.“Cool it, guys,” Jacob said. “Stay out of this.”I was glad they didn’t listen to him but only followed after him a little moreslowly.The wind was still now; it wouldn’t blow his scent away from me.He got close enough that I could feel the heat of his body in the air between us.My throat burned in response.“C’mon, Bells. Do your worst.”Leah hissed.
    • 322I didn’t want to breathe. It wasn’t right to take such dangerous advantage ofJacob, no matter if he was the one offering. But I couldn’t get away from the logic.How else could I be sure that I wouldn’t hurt Renesmee?“I’m getting older here, Bella,” Jacob taunted. “Okay, not technically, but you getthe idea. Go on, take a whiff.”“Hold on to me,” I said to Edward, cringing back into his chest.His hands tightened on my arms.I locked my muscles in place, hoping I could keep them frozen. I resolved that Iwould do at least as well as I had on the hunt. Worst-case scenario, I would stopbreathing and run for it. Nervously, I took a tiny breath in through my nose,braced for anything.It hurt a little, but my throat was already burning dully anyway. Jacob didn’tsmell that much more human than the mountain lion. There was an animal edgeto his blood that instantly repelled. Though the loud, wet sound of his heart wasappealing, the scent that went with it made my nose wrinkle. It was actuallyeasier with the smell to temper my reaction to the sound and heat of his pulsingblood.I took another breath and relaxed. “Huh. I can see what everyone’s been going onabout. You stink, Jacob.”Edward burst into laughter; his hands slipped from my shoulders to wrap aroundmy waist. Seth barked a low chortle in harmony with Edward; he came a littlecloser while Leah retreated several paces. And then I was aware of anotheraudience when I heard Emmett’s low, distinct guffaw, muffled a little by the glasswall between us.“Look who’s talking,” Jacob said, theatrically plugging his nose. His face didn’tpucker at all while Edward embraced me, not even when Edward composedhimself and whispered “I love you” in my ear. Jacob just kept grinning. Thismade me feel hopeful that things were going to be right between us, the way theyhadn’t been for so long now. Maybe now I could truly be his friend, since Idisgusted him enough physically that he couldn’t love me the same way as before.Maybe that was all that was needed.“Okay, so I passed, right?” I said. “Now are you going to tell me what this bigsecret is?”Jacob’s expression became very nervous. “It’s nothing you need to worry aboutthis second. . . .”I heard Emmett chuckle again—a sound of anticipation.
    • 323I would have pressed my point, but as I listened to Emmett, I heard other sounds,too. Seven people breathing. One set of lungs moving more rapidly than theothers. Only one heart fluttering like a bird’s wings, light and quick.I was totally diverted. My daughter was just on the other side of that thin wall ofglass. I couldn’t see her—the light bounced off the reflective windows like amirror. I could only see myself, looking very strange—so white and still—compared to Jacob. Or, compared to Edward, looking exactly right.“Renesmee,” I whispered. Stress made me a statue again. Renesmee wasn’t goingto smell like an animal. Would I put her in danger?“Come and see,” Edward murmured. “I know you can handle this.”“You’ll help me?” I whispered through motionless lips.“Of course I will.”“And Emmett and Jasper—just in case?”“We’ll take care of you, Bella. Don’t worry, we’ll be ready. None of us would riskRenesmee. I think you’ll be surprised at how entirely she’s already wrapped us allaround her little fingers. She’ll be perfectly safe, no matter what.”My yearning to see her, to understand the worship in his voice, broke my frozenpose. I took a step forward.And then Jacob was in my way, his face a mask of worry.“Are you sure, bloodsucker?” he demanded of Edward, his voice almost pleading.I’d never heard him speak to Edward that way. “I don’t like this. Maybe sheshould wait—”“You had your test, Jacob.”It was Jacob’s test?“But—,” Jacob began.“But nothing,” Edward said, suddenly exasperated. “Bella needs to see ourdaughter. Get out of her way.”Jacob shot me an odd, frantic look and then turned and nearly sprinted into thehouse ahead of us.Edward growled.
    • 324I couldn’t make sense of their confrontation, and I couldn’t concentrate on it,either. I could only think about the blurred child in my memory and struggleagainst the haziness, trying to remember her face exactly.“Shall we?” Edward said, his voice gentle again.I nodded nervously.He took my hand tightly in his and led the way into the house.They waited for me in a smiling line that was both welcoming and defensive.Rosalie was several paces behind the rest of them, near the front door. She wasalone until Jacob joined her and then stood in front of her, closer than wasnormal. There was no sense of comfort in that closeness; both of them seemed tocringe from the proximity.Someone very small was leaning forward out of Rosalie’s arms, peering aroundJacob. Immediately, she had my absolute attention, my every thought, the waynothing else had owned them since the moment I’d opened my eyes.“I was out just two days?” I gasped, disbelieving.The stranger-child in Rosalie’s arms had to be weeks, if not months, old. She wasmaybe twice the size of the baby in my dim memory, and she seemed to besupporting her own torso easily as she stretched toward me. Her shiny bronze-colored hair fell in ringlets past her shoulders. Her chocolate brown eyesexamined me with an interest that was not at all childlike; it was adult, aware andintelligent. She raised one hand, reaching in my direction for a moment, and thenreached back to touch Rosalie’s throat.If her face had not been astonishing in its beauty and perfection, I wouldn’t havebelieved it was the same child. My child.But Edward was there in her features, and I was there in the color of her eyes andcheeks. Even Charlie had a place in her thick curls, though their color matchedEdward’s. She must be ours. Impossible, but still true.Seeing this unanticipated little person did not make her more real, though. Itonly made her more fantastic.Rosalie patted the hand against her neck and murmured, “Yes, that’s her.”Renesmee’s eyes stayed locked on mine. Then, as she had just seconds after herviolent birth, she smiled at me. A brilliant flash of tiny, perfect white teeth.Reeling inside, I took a hesitant step toward her.
    • 325Everyone moved very fast.Emmett and Jasper were right in front of me, shoulder to shoulder, hands ready.Edward gripped me from behind, fingers tight again on the tops of my arms.Even Carlisle and Esme moved to get Emmett’s and Jasper’s flanks, while Rosaliebacked to the door, her arms clutching at Renesmee. Jacob moved, too, keepinghis protective stance in front of them.Alice was the only one who held her place.“Oh, give her some credit,” she chided them. “She wasn’t going to do anything.You’d want a closer look, too.”Alice was right. I was in control of myself. I’d been braced for anything—for ascent as impossibly insistent as the human smell in the woods. The temptationhere was really not comparable. Renesmee’s fragrance was perfectly balancedright on the line between the scent of the most beautiful perfume and the scent ofthe most delicious food. There was enough of the sweet vampire smell to keep thehuman part from being overwhelming.I could handle it. I was sure.“I’m okay,” I promised, patting Edward’s hand on my arm. Then I hesitated andadded, “Keep close, though, just in case.”Jasper’s eyes were tight, focused. I knew he was taking in my emotional climate,and I worked on settling into a steady calm. I felt Edward free my arms as he readJasper’s assessment. But, though Jasper was getting it firsthand, he didn’t seemas certain.When she heard my voice, the too-aware child struggled in Rosalie’s arms,reaching toward me. Somehow, her expression managed to look impatient.“Jazz, Em, let us through. Bella’s got this.”“Edward, the risk—,” Jasper said.“Minimal. Listen, Jasper—on the hunt she caught the scent of some hikers whowere in the wrong place at the wrong time. . . .”I heard Carlisle suck in a shocked breath. Esme’s face was suddenly full ofconcern mingled with compassion. Jasper’s eyes widened, but he nodded just atiny bit, as if Edward’s words answered some question in his head. Jacob’s mouthscrewed up into a disgusted grimace. Emmett shrugged. Rosalie seemed even lessconcerned than Emmett as she tried to hold on to the struggling child in herarms.
    • 326Alice’s expression told me that she was not fooled. Her narrowed eyes, focusedwith burning intensity on my borrowed shirt, seemed more worried about whatI’d done to my dress than anything else.“Edward!” Carlisle chastened. “How could you be so irresponsible?”“I know, Carlisle, I know. I was just plain stupid. I should have taken the time tomake sure we were in a safe zone before I set her loose.”“Edward,” I mumbled, embarrassed by the way they stared at me. It was like theywere trying to see a brighter red in my eyes.“He’s absolutely right to rebuke me, Bella,” Edward said with a grin. “I made ahuge mistake. The fact that you are stronger than anyone I’ve ever known doesn’tchange that.”Alice rolled her eyes. “Tasteful joke, Edward.”“I wasn’t making a joke. I was explaining to Jasper why I know Bella can handlethis. It’s not my fault everyone jumped to conclusions.”“Wait,” Jasper gasped. “She didn’t hunt the humans?”“She started to,” Edward said, clearly enjoying himself. My teeth ground together.“She was entirely focused on the hunt.”“What happened?” Carlisle interjected. His eyes were suddenly bright, an amazedsmile beginning to form on his face. It reminded me of before, when he’d wantedthe details on my transformation experience. The thrill of new information.Edward leaned toward him, animated. “She heard me behind her and reacteddefensively. As soon as my pursuit broke into her concentration, she snappedright out of it. I’ve never seen anything to equal her. She realized at once whatwas happening, and then… she held her breath and ran away.”“Whoa,” Emmett murmured. “Seriously?”“He’s not telling it right,” I muttered, more embarrassed than before. “He left outthe part where I growled at him.”“Did ya get in a couple of good swipes?” Emmett asked eagerly.“No! Of course not.”“No, not really? You really didn’t attack him?”“Emmett!” I protested.
    • 327“Aw, what a waste,” Emmett groaned. “And here you’re probably the one personwho could take him—since he can’t get in your head to cheat—and you had aperfect excuse, too.” He sighed. “I’ve been dying to see how he’d do without thatadvantage.”I glared at him frostily. “I would never.”Jasper’s frown caught my attention; he seemed even more disturbed than before.Edward touched his fist lightly to Jasper’s shoulder in a mock punch. “You seewhat I mean?”“It’s not natural,” Jasper muttered.“She could have turned on you—she’s only hours old!” Esme scolded, putting herhand against her heart. “Oh, we should have gone with you.”I wasn’t paying so much attention, now that Edward was past the punch line ofhis joke. I was staring at the gorgeous child by the door, who was still staring atme. Her little dimpled hands reached out toward me like she knew exactly who Iwas. Automatically, my hand lifted to mimic hers.“Edward,” I said, leaning around Jasper to see her better. “Please?”Jasper’s teeth were set; he didn’t move.“Jazz, this isn’t anything you’ve seen before,” Alice said quietly. “Trust me.”Their eyes met for a short second, and then Jasper nodded. He moved out of myway, but put one hand on my shoulder and moved with me as I walked slowlyforward.I thought about every step before I took it, analyzing my mood, the burn in mythroat, the position of the others around me. How strong I felt versus how wellthey would be able to contain me. It was a slow procession.And then the child in Rosalie’s arms, struggling and reaching all this time whileher expression got more and more irritated, let out a high, ringing wail. Everyonereacted as if—like me—they’d never heard her voice before.They swarmed around her in a second, leaving me standing alone, frozen inplace. The sound of Renesmee’s cry pierced right through me, spearing me to thefloor. My eyes pricked in the strangest way, like they wanted to tear.It seemed like everyone had a hand on her, patting and soothing. Everyone butme.
    • 328“What’s the matter? Is she hurt? What happened?”It was Jacob’s voice that was loudest, that raised anxiously above the others. Iwatched in shock as he reached for Renesmee, and then in utter horror as Rosaliesurrendered her to him without a fight.“No, she’s fine,” Rosalie reassured him.Rosalie was reassuring Jacob?Renesmee went to Jacob willingly enough, pushing her tiny hand against hischeek and then squirming around to stretch toward me again.“See?” Rosalie told him. “She just wants Bella.”“She wants me?” I whispered.Renesmee’s eyes—my eyes—stared impatiently at me.Edward darted back to my side. He put his hands lightly on my arms and urgedme forward.“She’s been waiting for you for almost three days,” he told me.We were only a few feet away from her now. Bursts of heat seemed to tremble outfrom her to touch me.Or maybe it was Jacob who was trembling. I saw his hands shaking as I gotcloser. And yet, despite his obvious anxiety, his face was more serene than I hadseen it in a long time.“Jake—I’m fine,” I told him. It made me panicky to see Renesmee in his shakinghands, but I worked to keep myself in control.He frowned at me, eyes tight, like he was just as panicky at the thought ofRenesmee in my arms.Renesmee whimpered eagerly and stretched, her little hands grasping into fistsagain and again.Something in me clicked into place at that moment. The sound of her cry, thefamiliarity of her eyes, the way she seemed even more impatient than I did forthis reunion—all of it wove together into the most natural of patterns as sheclutched the air between us. Suddenly, she was absolutely real, and of course Iknew her. It was perfectly ordinary that I should take that last easy step and reachfor her, putting my hands exactly where they would fit best as I pulled her gentlytoward me.
    • 329Jacob let his long arms stretch so that I could cradle her, but he didn’t let go. Heshuddered a little when our skin touched. His skin, always so warm to me before,felt like an open flame to me now. It was almost the same temperature asRenesmee’s. Perhaps one or two degrees difference.Renesmee seemed oblivious to the coolness of my skin, or at least very used to it.She looked up and smiled at me again, showing her square little teeth and twodimples. Then, very deliberately, she reached for my face.The moment she did this, all the hands on me tightened, anticipating myreaction. I barely noticed.I was gasping, stunned and frightened by the strange, alarming image that filledmy mind. It felt like a very strong memory—I could still see through my eyeswhile I watched it in my head—but it was completely unfamiliar. I stared throughit to Renesmee’s expectant expression, trying to understand what was happening,struggling desperately to hold on to my calm.Besides being shocking and unfamiliar, the image was also wrong somehow—Ialmost recognized my own face in it, my old face, but it was off, backward. Igrasped quickly that I was seeing my face as others saw it, rather than flipped in areflection.My memory face was twisted, ravaged, covered in sweat and blood. Despite this,my expression in the vision became an adoring smile; my brown eyes glowed overtheir deep circles. The image enlarged, my face came closer to the unseen vantagepoint, and then abruptly vanished.Renesmee’s hand dropped from my cheek. She smiled wider, dimpling again.It was totally silent in the room but for the heartbeats. No one but Jacob andRenesmee was so much as breathing. The silence stretched on; it seemed likethey were waiting for me to say something.“What… was… that?” I managed to choke out.“What did you see?” Rosalie asked curiously, leaning around Jacob, who seemedvery much in the way and out of place at the moment. “What did she show you?”“She showed me that?” I whispered.“I told you it was hard to explain,” Edward murmured in my ear. “But effective asmeans of communications go.”“What was it?” Jacob asked.
    • 330I blinked quickly several times. “Um. Me. I think. But I looked terrible.”“It was the only memory she had of you,” Edward explained. It was obvious he’dseen what she was showing me as she thought of it. He was still cringing, hisvoice rough from reliving the memory. “She’s letting you know that she’s madethe connection, that she knows who you are.”“But how did she do that?”Renesmee seemed unconcerned with my boggling eyes. She was smiling slightlyand pulling on a lock of my hair.“How do I hear thoughts? How does Alice see the future?” Edward askedrhetorically, and then shrugged. “She’s gifted.”“It’s an interesting twist,” Carlisle said to Edward. “Like she’s doing the exactopposite of what you can.”“Interesting,” Edward agreed. “I wonder. . . .”I knew they were speculating away, but I didn’t care. I was staring at the mostbeautiful face in the world. She was hot in my arms, reminding me of the momentwhen the blackness had almost won, when there was nothing in the world left tohold on to. Nothing strong enough to pull me through the crushing darkness. Themoment when I’d thought of Renesmee and found something I would never let goof.“I remember you, too,” I told her quietly.It seemed very natural to lean in and press my lips to her forehead. She smelledwonderful. The scent of her skin set my throat burning, but it was easy to ignore.It didn’t strip the joy from the moment. Renesmee was real and I knew her. Shewas the same one I’d fought for from the beginning. My little nudger, the one wholoved me from the inside, too. Half Edward, perfect and lovely. And half me—which, surprisingly, made her better rather than detracting.I’d been right all along. She was worth the fight.“She’s fine,” Alice murmured, probably to Jasper. I could feel them hovering, nottrusting me.“Haven’t we experimented enough for one day?” Jacob asked, his voice a slightlyhigher pitch with stress. “Okay, Bella’s doing great, but let’s not push it.”I glared at him with real irritation. Jasper shuffled uneasily next to me. We wereall crowded so close that every tiny movement seemed very big.
    • 331“What is your problem, Jacob?” I demanded. I tugged lightly against his hold onRenesmee, and he just stepped closer to me. He was pressed right up to me,Renesmee touching both of our chests.Edward hissed at him. “Just because I understand, it doesn’t mean I won’t throwyou out, Jacob. Bella’s doing extraordinarily well. Don’t ruin the moment forher.”“I’ll help him toss you, dog,” Rosalie promised, her voice seething. “I owe you agood kick in the gut.” Obviously, there was no change in that relationship, unlessit had gotten worse.I glared at Jacob’s anxious half-angry expression. His eyes were locked onRenesmee’s face. With everyone pressed together, he had to be touching at leastsix different vampires at the moment, and it didn’t even seem to bug him.Would he really go through all this just to protect me from myself? What couldhave happened during my transformation—my alteration into something hehated—that would soften him so much toward the reason for its necessity?I puzzled over it, watching him stare at my daughter. Staring at her like… like hewas a blind man seeing the sun for the very first time.“No!” I gasped.Jasper’s teeth came together and Edward’s arms wrapped around my chest likeconstricting boas. Jacob had Renesmee out of my arms in the same second, and Idid not try to hold on to her. Because I felt it coming—the snap that they’d allbeen waiting for.“Rose,” I said through my teeth, very slowly and precisely. “Take Renesmee.”Rosalie held her hands out, and Jacob handed my daughter to her at once. Bothof them backed away from me.“Edward, I don’t want to hurt you, so please let go of me.”He hesitated.“Go stand in front of Renesmee,” I suggested.He deliberated, and then let me go.I leaned into my hunting crouch and took two slow steps forward toward Jacob.“You didn’t,” I snarled at him.
    • 332He backed away, palms up, trying to reason with me. “You know it’s notsomething I can control.”“You stupid mutt! How could you? My baby!”He backed out the front door now as I stalked him, half-running backward downthe stairs. “It wasn’t my idea, Bella!”“I’ve held her all of one time, and already you think you have some moronic wolfyclaim to her? She’s mine.”“I can share,” he said pleadingly as he retreated across the lawn.“Pay up,” I heard Emmett say behind me. A small part of my brain wondered whohad bet against this outcome. I didn’t waste much attention on it. I was toofurious.“How dare you imprint on my baby? Have you lost your mind?”“It was involuntary!” he insisted, backing into the trees.Then he wasn’t alone. The two huge wolves reappeared, flanking him on eitherside. Leah snapped at me.A fearsome snarl ripped through my teeth back at her. The sound disturbed me,but not enough to stop my advance.“Bella, would you try to listen for just a second? Please?” Jacob begged. “Leah,back off,” he added.Leah curled her lip at me and didn’t move.“Why should I listen?” I hissed. Fury reigned in my head. It clouded everythingelse out.“Because you’re the one who told me this. Do you remember? You said webelonged in each other’s lives, right? That we were family. You said that was howyou and I were supposed to be. So… now we are. It’s what you wanted.”I glared ferociously. I did dimly remember those words. But my new quick brainwas two steps ahead of his nonsense.“You think you’ll be part of my family as my son-in-law!” I screeched. My bellvoice ripped through two octaves and still came out sounding like music.Emmett laughed.
    • 333“Stop her, Edward,” Esme murmured. “She’ll be unhappy if she hurts him.”But I felt no pursuit behind me.“No!” Jacob was insisting at the same time. “How can you even look at it thatway? She’s just a baby, for crying out loud!”“That’s my point!” I yelled.“You know I don’t think of her that way! Do you think Edward would have let melive this long if I did? All I want is for her to be safe and happy—is that so bad? Sodifferent from what you want?” He was shouting right back at me.Beyond words, I shrieked a growl at him.“Amazing, isn’t she?” I heard Edward murmur.“She hasn’t gone for his throat even once,” Carlisle agreed, sounding stunned.“Fine, you win this one,” Emmett said grudgingly.“You’re going to stay away from her,” I hissed up at Jacob.“I can’t do that!”Through my teeth: “Try. Starting now.”“It’s not possible. Do you remember how much you wanted me around three daysago? How hard it was to be apart from each other? That’s gone for you now, isn’tit?”I glared, not sure what he was implying.“That was her,” he told me. “From the very beginning. We had to be together,even then.”I remembered, and then I understood; a tiny part of me was relieved to have themadness explained. But that relief somehow only made me angrier. Was heexpecting that to be enough for me? That one little clarification would make meokay with this?“Run away while you still can,” I threatened.“C’mon, Bells! Nessie likes me, too,” he insisted.I froze. My breathing stopped. Behind me, I heard the lack of sound that wastheir anxious reaction.
    • 334“What… did you call her?”Jacob took a step farther back, managing to look sheepish. “Well,” he mumbled,“that name you came up with is kind of a mouthful and—”“You nicknamed my daughter after the Loch Ness Monster?” I screeched.And then I lunged for his throat.
    • 335 23. MEMORIES“I’m so sorry, Seth. I should have been closer.”Edward was still apologizing, and I didn’t think that was either fair orappropriate. After all, Edward hadn’t completely and inexcusably lost control ofhis temper. Edward hadn’t tried to rip Jacob’s head off—Jacob, who wouldn’teven phase to protect himself—and then accidentally broken Seth’s shoulder andcollarbone when he jumped in between. Edward hadn’t almost killed his bestfriend.Not that the best friend didn’t have a few things to answer for, but, obviously,nothing Jacob had done could have mitigated my behavior.So shouldn’t I have been the one apologizing? I tried again.“Seth, I—”“Don’t worry about it, Bella, I’m totally fine,” Seth said at the same time thatEdward said, “Bella, love, no one is judging you. You’re doing so well.”They hadn’t let me finish a sentence yet.It only made it worse that Edward was having a difficult time keeping the smileoff his face. I knew that Jacob didn’t deserve my overreaction, but Edwardseemed to find something satisfying in it. Maybe he was just wishing that he hadthe excuse of being a newborn so that he could do something physical about hisirritation with Jacob, too.I tried to erase the anger from my system entirely, but it was hard, knowing thatJacob was outside with Renesmee right now. Keeping her safe from me, thecrazed newborn.Carlisle secured another piece of the brace to Seth’s arm, and Seth winced.“Sorry, sorry!” I mumbled, knowing I’d never get a fully articulated apology out.“Don’t freak, Bella,” Seth said, patting my knee with his good hand while Edwardrubbed my arm from the other side.Seth seemed to feel no aversion to having me sit beside him on the sofa as Carlisletreated him. “I’ll be back to normal in half an hour,” he continued, still patting myknee as if oblivious to the cold, hard texture of it. “Anyone would have done thesame, what with Jake and Ness—” He broke off mid-word and changed thesubject quickly. “I mean, at least you didn’t bite me or anything. That would’vesucked.”
    • 336I buried my face in my hands and shuddered at the thought, at the very realpossibility. It could have happened so easily. And werewolves didn’t react tovampire venom the same way humans did, they’d told me only now. It was poisonto them.“I’m a bad person.”“Of course you aren’t. I should have—,” Edward started.“Stop that,” I sighed. I didn’t want him taking the blame for this the way healways took everything on himself.“Lucky thing Ness—Renesmee’s not venomous,” Seth said after a second ofawkward silence. “’Cause she bites Jake all the time.”My hands dropped. “She does?”“Sure. Whenever he and Rose don’t get dinner in her mouth fast enough. Rosethinks it’s pretty hilarious.”I stared at him, shocked, and also feeling guilty, because I had to admit that thispleased me a teensy bit in a petulant way.Of course, I already knew that Renesmee wasn’t venomous. I was the first personshe’d bitten. I didn’t make this observation aloud, as I was feigning memory losson those recent events.“Well, Seth,” Carlisle said, straightening up and stepping away from us. “I thinkthat’s as much as I can do. Try to not move for, oh, a few hours, I guess.” Carlislechuckled. “I wish treating humans were this instantaneously gratifying.” Herested his hand for a moment on Seth’s black hair. “Stay still,” he ordered, andthen he disappeared upstairs. I heard his office door close, and I wondered ifthey’d already removed the evidence of my time there.“I can probably manage sitting still for a while,” Seth agreed after Carlisle wasalready gone, and then he yawned hugely. Carefully, making sure not to tweak hisshoulder, Seth leaned his head against the sofa’s back and closed his eyes.Seconds later, his mouth fell slack.I frowned at his peaceful face for another minute. Like Jacob, Seth seemed tohave the gift of falling asleep at will. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to apologizeagain for a while, I got up; the motion didn’t jostle the couch in the slightest.Everything physical was so easy. But the rest…Edward followed me to the back windows and took my hand.
    • 337Leah was pacing along the river, stopping every now and then to look at thehouse. It was easy to tell when she was looking for her brother and when she waslooking for me. She alternated between anxious glances and murderous glares.I could hear Jacob and Rosalie outside on the front steps bickering quietly overwhose turn it was to feed Renesmee. Their relationship was as antagonistic asever; the only thing they agreed on now was that I should be kept away from mybaby until I was one hundred percent recovered from my temper tantrum.Edward had disputed their verdict, but I’d let it go. I wanted to be sure, too. I wasworried, though, that my one hundred percent sure and their one hundredpercent sure might be very different things.Other than their squabbling, Seth’s slow breathing, and Leah’s annoyed panting,it was very quiet. Emmett, Alice, and Esme were hunting. Jasper had stayedbehind to watch me. He stood unobtrusively behind the newel post now, tryingnot to be obnoxious about it.I took advantage of the calm to think of all the things Edward and Seth had toldme while Carlisle splinted Seth’s arm. I’d missed a whole lot while I was burning,and this was the first real chance to catch up.The main thing was the end of the feud with Sam’s pack—which was why theothers felt safe to come and go as they pleased again. The truce was stronger thanever. Or more binding, depending on your viewpoint, I imagined.Binding, because the most absolute of all the pack’s laws was that no wolf ever killthe object of another wolf’s imprinting. The pain of such a thing would beintolerable for the whole pack. The fault, whether intended or accidental, couldnot be forgiven; the wolves involved would fight to the death—there was no otheroption. It had happened long ago, Seth told me, but only accidentally. No wolfwould ever intentionally destroy a brother that way.So Renesmee was untouchable because of the way Jacob now felt about her. Itried to concentrate on the relief of this fact rather than the chagrin, but it wasn’teasy. My mind had enough room to feel both emotions intensely at the sametime.And Sam couldn’t get mad about my transformation, either, because Jacob—speaking as the rightful Alpha—had allowed it. It rankled to realize over and overagain how much I owed Jacob when I just wanted to be mad at him.I deliberately redirected my thoughts in order to control my emotions. Iconsidered another interesting phenomenon; though the silence between theseparate packs continued, Jacob and Sam had discovered that Alphas could speakto each other while in their wolf form. It wasn’t the same as before; they couldn’thear every thought the way they had prior to the split. It was more like speakingaloud, Seth had said. Sam could only hear the thoughts Jacob wanted to share,
    • 338and vice versa. They found they could communicate over distance, too, now thatthey were talking to each other again.They hadn’t found all this out until Jacob had gone alone—over Seth’s and Leah’sobjections—to explain to Sam about Renesmee; it was the only time he’d leftRenesmee since first laying eyes on her.Once Sam had understood how absolutely everything had changed, he’d comeback with Jacob to talk to Carlisle. They’d spoken in human form (Edward hadrefused to leave my side to translate), and the treaty had been renewed. Thefriendly feeling of the relationship, however, might never be the same.One big worry down.But there was another that, though not as physically dangerous as an angry wolfpack, still seemed more urgent to me.Charlie.He’d spoken to Esme earlier this morning, but that hadn’t kept him from callingagain, twice, just a few minutes ago while Carlisle treated Seth. Carlisle andEdward had let the phone ring.What would be the right thing to tell him? Were the Cullens right? Was tellinghim that I’d died the best, the kindest way? Would I be able to lie still in a coffinwhile he and my mother cried over me?It didn’t seem right to me. But putting Charlie or Renée in danger of the Volturi’sobsession with secrecy was clearly out of the question.There was still my idea—let Charlie see me, when I was ready for that, and let himmake his own wrong assumptions. Technically, the vampire rules would remainunbroken. Wouldn’t it be better for Charlie if he knew that I was alive—sort of—and happy? Even if I was strange and different and probably frightening to him?My eyes, in particular, were much too frightening right now. How long before myself-control and my eye color were ready for Charlie?“What’s the matter, Bella?” Jasper asked quietly, reading my growing tension.“No one is angry with you”—a low snarl from the riverside contradicted him, buthe ignored it—“or even surprised, really. Well, I suppose we are surprised.Surprised that you were able to snap out of it so quickly. You did well. Better thananyone expects of you.”While he was speaking, the room became very calm. Seth’s breathing slipped intoa low snore. I felt more peaceful, but I didn’t forget my anxieties.
    • 339“I was thinking about Charlie, actually.”Out front, the bickering cut off.“Ah,” Jasper murmured.“We really have to leave, don’t we?” I asked. “For a while, at the very least.Pretend we’re in Atlanta or something.”I could feel Edward’s gaze locked on my face, but I looked at Jasper. He was theone who answered me in a grave tone.“Yes. It’s the only way to protect your father.”I brooded for a moment. “I’m going to miss him so much. I’ll miss everyonehere.”Jacob, I thought, despite myself. Though that yearning was both vanished anddefined—and I was vastly relieved that it was—he was still my friend. Someonewho knew the real me and accepted her. Even as a monster.I thought about what Jacob had said, pleading with me before I’d attacked him.You said we belonged in each other’s lives, right? That we were family. You saidthat was how you and I were supposed to be. So… now we are. It’s what youwanted.But it didn’t feel like how I’d wanted it. Not exactly. I remembered further back,to the fuzzy, weak memories of my human life. Back to the very hardest part toremember—the time without Edward, a time so dark I’d tried to bury it in myhead. I couldn’t get the words exactly right; I only remembered wishing thatJacob were my brother so that we could love each other without any confusion orpain. Family. But I’d never factored a daughter into the equation.I remembered a little later—one of the many times that I’d told Jacob goodbye—wondering aloud who he would end up with, who would make his life right afterwhat I’d done to it. I had said something about how whoever she was, shewouldn’t be good enough for him.I snorted, and Edward raised one eyebrow questioningly. I just shook my head athim.But as much as I might miss my friend, I knew there was a bigger problem. HadSam or Jared or Quil ever gone a whole day without seeing the objects of theirfixations, Emily, Kim, and Claire? Could they? What would the separation fromRenesmee do to Jacob? Would it cause him pain?
    • 340There was still enough petty ire in my system to make me glad, not for his pain,but for the idea of having Renesmee away from him. How was I supposed to dealwith having her belong to Jacob when she only barely seemed to belong to me?The sound of movement on the front porch interrupted my thoughts. I heardthem get up, and then they were through the door. At exactly the same time,Carlisle came down the stairs with his hands full of odd things—a measuring tape,a scale. Jasper darted to my side. As if there was some signal I’d missed, evenLeah sat down outside and stared through the window with an expression likeshe was expecting something that was both familiar and also totallyuninteresting.“Must be six,” Edward said.“So?” I asked, my eyes locked on Rosalie, Jacob, and Renesmee. They stood in thedoorway, Renesmee in Rosalie’s arms. Rose looked wary. Jacob looked troubled.Renesmee looked beautiful and impatient.“Time to measure Ness—er, Renesmee,” Carlisle explained.“Oh. You do this every day?”“Four times a day,” Carlisle corrected absently as he motioned the others towardthe couch. I thought I saw Renesmee sigh.“Four times? Every day? Why?”“She’s still growing quickly,” Edward murmured to me, his voice quiet andstrained. He squeezed my hand, and his other arm wrapped securely around mywaist, almost as if he needed the support.I couldn’t take my eyes off Renesmee to check his expression.She looked perfect, absolutely healthy. Her skin glowed like backlit alabaster; thecolor in her cheeks was rose petals against it. There couldn’t be anything wrongwith such radiant beauty. Surely there could be nothing more dangerous in herlife than her mother. Could there?The difference between the child I’d given birth to and the one I’d met again anhour ago would have been obvious to anyone. The difference between Renesmeean hour ago and Renesmee now was subtler. Human eyes never would havedetected it. But it was there.Her body was slightly longer. Just a little bit slimmer. Her face wasn’t quite asround; it was more oval by one minute degree. Her ringlets hung a sixteenth of aninch lower down her shoulders. She stretched out helpfully in Rosalie’s arms
    • 341while Carlisle ran the tape measure down the length of her and then used it tocircle her head. He took no notes; perfect recall.I was aware that Jacob’s arms were crossed as tightly over his chest as Edward’sarms were locked around me. His heavy brows were mashed together into oneline over his deep-set eyes.She had matured from a single cell to a normal-sized baby in the course of a fewweeks. She looked well on her way to being a toddler just days after her birth. Ifthis rate of growth held…My vampire mind had no trouble with the math.“What do we do?” I whispered, horrified.Edward’s arms tightened. He understood exactly what I was asking. “I don’tknow.”“It’s slowing,” Jacob muttered through his teeth.“We’ll need several more days of measurements to track the trend, Jacob. I can’tmake any promises.”“Yesterday she grew two inches. Today it’s less.”“By a thirty-second of an inch, if my measurements are perfect,” Carlisle saidquietly.“Be perfect, Doc,” Jacob said, making the words almost threatening. Rosaliestiffened.“You know I’ll do my best,” Carlisle assured him.Jacob sighed. “Guess that’s all I can ask.”I felt irritated again, like Jacob was stealing my lines—and delivering them allwrong.Renesmee seemed irritated, too. She started to squirm and then reached herhand imperiously toward Rosalie. Rosalie leaned forward so that Renesmee couldtouch her face. After a second, Rose sighed.“What does she want?” Jacob demanded, taking my line again.“Bella, of course,” Rosalie told him, and her words made my insides feel a littlewarmer. Then she looked at me. “How are you?”
    • 342“Worried,” I admitted, and Edward squeezed me.“We all are. But that’s not what I meant.”“I’m in control,” I promised. Thirstiness was way down the list right now.Besides, Renesmee smelled good in a very non-food way.Jacob bit his lip but made no move to stop Rosalie as she offered Renesmee tome. Jasper and Edward hovered but allowed it. I could see how tense Rose was,and I wondered how the room felt to Jasper right now. Or was he focusing sohard on me that he couldn’t feel the others?Renesmee reached for me as I reached for her, a blinding smile lighting her face.She fit so easily in my arms, like they’d been shaped just for her. Immediately,she put her hot little hand against my cheek.Though I was prepared, it still made me gasp to see the memory like a vision inmy head. So bright and colorful but also completely transparent.She was remembering me charging Jacob across the front lawn, rememberingSeth leaping between us. She’d seen and heard it all with perfect clarity. It didn’tlook like me, this graceful predator leaping at her prey like an arrow arcing froma bow. It had to be someone else. That made me feel a very small bit less guilty asJacob stood there defenselessly with his hands raised in front of him. His handsdid not tremble.Edward chuckled, watching Renesmee’s thoughts with me. And then we bothwinced as we heard the crack of Seth’s bones.Renesmee smiled her brilliant smile, and her memory eyes did not leave Jacobthrough all the following mess. I tasted a new flavor to the memory—not exactlyprotective, more possessive—as she watched Jacob. I got the distinct impressionthat she was glad Seth had put himself in front of my spring. She didn’t wantJacob hurt. He was hers.“Oh, wonderful,” I groaned. “Perfect.”“It’s just because he tastes better than the rest of us,” Edward assured me, voicestiff with his own annoyance.“I told you she likes me, too,” Jacob teased from across the room, his eyes onRenesmee. His joking was halfhearted; the tense angle of his eyebrows had notrelaxed.Renesmee patted my face impatiently, demanding my attention. Anothermemory: Rosalie pulling a brush gently through each of her curls. It felt nice.
    • 343Carlisle and his tape measure, knowing she had to stretch and be still. It was notinteresting to her.“It looks like she’s going to give you a rundown of everything you missed,”Edward commented in my ear.My nose wrinkled as she dumped the next one on me. The smell coming from astrange metal cup—hard enough not to be bitten through easily—sent a flashburn through my throat. Ouch.And then Renesmee was out of my arms, which were pinned behind my back. Ididn’t struggle with Jasper; I just looked at Edward’s frightened face.“What did I do?”Edward looked at Jasper behind me, and then at me again.“But she was remembering being thirsty,” Edward muttered, his foreheadpressing into lines. “She was remembering the taste of human blood.”Jasper’s arms pulled mine tighter together. Part of my head noted that this wasn’tparticularly uncomfortable, let alone painful, as it would have been to a human. Itwas just annoying. I was sure I could break his hold, but I didn’t fight it.“Yes,” I agreed. “And?”Edward frowned at me for a second more, and then his expression loosened. Helaughed once. “And nothing at all, it seems. The overreaction is mine this time.Jazz, let her go.”The binding hands disappeared. I reached out for Renesmee as soon as I was free.Edward handed her to me without hesitation.“I can’t understand,” Jasper said. “I can’t bear this.”I watched in surprise as Jasper strode out the back door. Leah moved to give hima wide margin of space as he paced to the river and then launched himself over itin one bound.Renesmee touched my neck, repeating the scene of departure right back, like aninstant replay. I could feel the question in her thought, an echo of mine.I was already over the shock of her odd little gift. It seemed an entirely naturalpart of her, almost to be expected. Maybe now that I was part of the supernaturalmyself, I would never be a skeptic again.But what was wrong with Jasper?
    • 344“He’ll be back,” Edward said, whether to me or Renesmee, I wasn’t sure. “He justneeds a moment alone to readjust his perspective on life.” There was a grinthreatening at the corners of his mouth.Another human memory—Edward telling me that Jasper would feel better abouthimself if I “had a hard time adjusting” to being a vampire. This was in thecontext of a discussion about how many people I would kill my first newbornyear.“Is he mad at me?” I asked quietly.Edward’s eyes widened. “No. Why would he be?”“What’s the matter with him, then?”“He’s upset with himself, not you, Bella. He’s worrying about… self-fulfillingprophecy, I suppose you could say.”“How so?” Carlisle asked before I could.“He’s wondering if the newborn madness is really as difficult as we’ve alwaysthought, or if, with the right focus and attitude, anyone could do as well as Bella.Even now—perhaps he only has such difficulty because he believes it’s naturaland unavoidable. Maybe if he expected more of himself, he would rise to thoseexpectations. You’re making him question a lot of deep-rooted assumptions,Bella.”“But that’s unfair,” Carlisle said. “Everyone is different; everyone has their ownchallenges. Perhaps what Bella is doing goes beyond the natural. Maybe this isher gift, so to speak.”I froze with surprise. Renesmee felt the change, and touched me. Sheremembered the last second of time and wondered why.“That’s an interesting theory, and quite plausible,” Edward said.For a tiny space, I was disappointed. What? No magic visions, no formidableoffensive abilities like, oh, shooting lightning bolts from my eyes or something?Nothing helpful or cool at all?And then I realized what that might mean, if my “superpower” was no more thanexceptional self-control.For one thing, at least I had a gift. It could have been nothing.But, much more than that, if Edward was right, then I could skip right over thepart I’d feared the very most.
    • 345What if I didn’t have to be a newborn? Not in the crazed killing-machine sense,anyway. What if I could fit right in with the Cullens from my first day? What if wedidn’t have to hide out somewhere remote for a year while I “grew up”? What if,like Carlisle, I never killed a single person? What if I could be a good vampireright away?I could see Charlie.I sighed as soon as reality filtered through hope. I couldn’t see Charlie right away.The eyes, the voice, the perfected face. What could I possibly say to him; howcould I even begin? I was furtively glad that I had some excuses for putting thingsoff for a while; as much as I wanted to find some way to keep Charlie in my life, Iwas terrified of that first meeting. Seeing his eyes pop as he took in my new face,my new skin. Knowing that he was frightened. Wondering what dark explanationwould form in his head.I was chicken enough to wait for a year while my eyes cooled. And here I’dthought I would be so fearless when I was indestructible.“Have you ever seen an equivalent to self-control as a talent?” Edward askedCarlisle. “Do you really think that’s a gift, or just a product of all herpreparation?”Carlisle shrugged. “It’s slightly similar to what Siobhan has always been able todo, though she wouldn’t call it a gift.”“Siobhan, your friend in that Irish coven?” Rosalie asked. “I wasn’t aware that shedid anything special. I thought it was Maggie who was talented in that bunch.”“Yes, Siobhan thinks the same. But she has this way of deciding her goals andthen almost… willing them into reality. She considers it good planning, but I’vealways wondered if it was something more. When she included Maggie, forinstance. Liam was very territorial, but Siobhan wanted it to work out, and so itdid.”Edward, Carlisle, and Rosalie settled into chairs as they continued with thediscussion. Jacob sat next to Seth protectively, looking bored. From the way hiseyelids drooped, I was sure he’d be unconscious momentarily.I listened, but my attention was divided. Renesmee was still telling me about herday. I held her by the window wall, my arms rocking her automatically as westared into each other’s eyes.I realized that the others had no reason for sitting down. I was perfectlycomfortable standing. It was just as restful as stretching out on a bed would be. Iknew I would be able to stand like this for a week without moving and I wouldfeel just as relaxed at the end of the seven days as I did at the beginning.
    • 346They must sit out of habit. Humans would notice someone standing for hourswithout ever shifting her weight to a different foot. Even now, I saw Rosalie brushher fingers against her hair and Carlisle cross his legs. Little motions to keep frombeing too still, too much a vampire. I would have to pay attention to what theydid and start practicing.I rolled my weight back to my left leg. It felt kind of silly.Maybe they were just trying to give me a little alone time with my baby—as aloneas was safe.Renesmee told me about every minute happening of the day, and I got the feelingfrom the tenor of her little stories that she wanted me to know her every bit asmuch I wanted the same thing. It worried her that I had missed things—like thesparrows that had hopped closer and closer when Jacob had held her, both ofthem very still beside one of the big hemlocks; the birds wouldn’t come close toRosalie. Or the outrageously icky white stuff—baby formula—that Carlisle hadput in her cup; it smelled like sour dirt. Or the song Edward had crooned to herthat was so perfect Renesmee played it for me twice; I was surprised that I was inthe background of that memory, perfectly motionless but looking fairly batteredstill. I shuddered, remembering that time from my own perspective. The hideousfire…After almost an hour—the others were still deeply absorbed in their discussion,Seth and Jacob snoring in harmony on the couch—Renesmee’s memory storiesbegan to slow. They got slightly blurry around the edges and drifted out of focusbefore they came to their conclusions. I was about to interrupt Edward in apanic—was there something wrong with her?—when her eyelids fluttered andclosed. She yawned, her plump pink lips stretching into a round O, and her eyesnever reopened.Her hand fell away from my face as she drifted to sleep—the backs of her eyelidswere the pale lavender color of thin clouds before the sunrise. Careful not todisturb her, I lifted that hand back to my skin and held it there curiously. At firstthere was nothing, and then, after a few minutes, a flickering of colors like ahandful of butterflies were scattering from her thoughts.Mesmerized, I watched her dreams. There was no sense to it. Just colors andshapes and faces. I was pleased by how often my face—both of my faces, hideoushuman and glorious immortal—cropped up in her unconscious thoughts. Morethan Edward or Rosalie. I was neck and neck with Jacob; I tried not to let that getto me.For the first time, I understood how Edward had been able to watch me sleepnight after boring night, just to hear me talk in my sleep. I could watch Renesmeedream forever.
    • 347The change in Edward’s tone caught my attention when he said, “Finally,” andturned to gaze out the window. It was deep, purply night outside, but I could seejust as far as before. Nothing was hidden in the darkness; everything had justchanged colors.Leah, still glowering, got up and slunk into the brush just as Alice came into viewon the other side of the river. Alice swung back and forth from a branch like atrapeze artist, toes touching hands, before throwing her body into a graceful flatspin over the river. Esme made a more traditional leap, while Emmett chargedright through the water, splashing water so far that splatters hit the backwindows. To my surprise, Jasper followed after, his own efficient leap seemingunderstated, even subtle, after the others.The huge grin stretching Alice’s face was familiar in a dim, odd way. Everyonewas suddenly smiling at me—Esme sweet, Emmett excited, Rosalie a littlesuperior, Carlisle indulgent, and Edward expectant.Alice skipped into the room ahead of everyone else, her hand stretched out infront of her and impatience making a nearly visible aura around her. In her palmwas an everyday brass key with an oversized pink satin bow tied around it.She held the key out for me, and I automatically gripped Renesmee more securelyin my right arm so that I could open my left. Alice dropped the key into it.“Happy birthday!” she squealed.I rolled my eyes. “No one starts counting on the actual day of birth,” I remindedher. “Your first birthday is at the year mark, Alice.”Her grin turned smug. “We’re not celebrating your vampire birthday. Yet. It’sSeptember thirteenth, Bella. Happy nineteenth birthday!”
    • 348 24. SURPRISE“No. No way!” I shook my head fiercely and then shot a glance at the smug smileon my seventeen-year-old husband’s face. “No, this doesn’t count. I stoppedaging three days ago. I am eighteen forever.”“Whatever,” Alice said, dismissing my protest with a quick shrug. “We’recelebrating anyway, so suck it up.”I sighed. There was rarely a point to arguing with Alice.Her grin got impossibly wider as she read the acquiescence in my eyes.“Are you ready to open your present?” Alice sang.“Presents,” Edward corrected, and he pulled another key—this one longer andsilver with a less gaudy blue bow—from his pocket.I struggled to keep from rolling my eyes. I knew immediately what this key wasto—the “after car.” I wondered if I should feel excited. It seemed the vampireconversion hadn’t given me any sudden interest in sports cars.“Mine first,” Alice said, and then stuck her tongue out, foreseeing his answer.“Mine is closer.”“But look at how she’s dressed.” Alice’s words were almost a moan. “It’s beenkilling me all day. That is clearly the priority.”My eyebrows pulled together as I wondered how a key could get me into newclothes. Had she gotten me a whole trunkful?“I know—I’ll play you for it,” Alice suggested. “Rock, paper, scissors.”Jasper chuckled and Edward sighed.“Why you don’t you just tell me who wins?” Edward said wryly.Alice beamed. “I do. Excellent.”“It’s probably better that I wait for morning, anyway.” Edward smiled crookedlyat me and then nodded toward Jacob and Seth, who looked like they werecrashed for the night; I wonder how long they’d stayed up this time. “I think itmight be more fun if Jacob was awake for the big reveal, don’t you agree? So thatsomeone there is able to express the right level of enthusiasm?”
    • 349I grinned back. He knew me well.“Yay,” Alice sang. “Bella, give Ness—Renesmee to Rosalie.”“Where does she usually sleep?”Alice shrugged. “In Rose’s arms. Or Jacob’s. Or Esme’s. You get the picture. Shehas never been set down in her entire life. She’s going to be the most spoiled half-vampire in existence.”Edward laughed while Rosalie took Renesmee expertly in her arms. “She is alsothe most unspoiled half-vampire in existence,” Rosalie said. “The beauty of beingone of a kind.”Rosalie grinned at me, and I was glad to see that the new comradeship betweenus was still there in her smile. I hadn’t been entirely sure it would last afterRenesmee’s life was no longer tied to mine. But maybe we had fought together onthe same side long enough that we would always be friends now. I’d finally madethe same choice she would have if she’d been in my shoes. That seemed to havewashed away her resentment for all my other choices.Alice shoved the beribboned key in my hand, then grabbed my elbow and steeredme toward the back door. “Let’s go, let’s go,” she trilled.“Is it outside?”“Sort of,” Alice said, pushing me forward.“Enjoy your gift,” Rosalie said. “It’s from all of us. Esme especially.”“Aren’t you coming, too?” I realized that no one had moved.“We’ll give you a chance to appreciate it alone,” Rosalie said. “You can tell usabout it… later.”Emmett guffawed. Something about his laugh made me feel like blushing, thoughI wasn’t sure why.I realized that lots of things about me—like truly hating surprises, and not likinggifts in general much more—had not changed one bit. It was a relief andrevelation to discover how much of my essential core traits had come with meinto this new body.I hadn’t expected to be myself. I smiled widely.Alice tugged my elbow, and I couldn’t stop smiling as I followed her into thepurple night. Only Edward came with us.
    • 350“There’s the enthusiasm I’m looking for,” Alice murmured approvingly. Then shedropped my arm, made two lithe bounds, and leaped over the river.“C’mon, Bella,” she called from the other side.Edward jumped at the same time I did; it was every bit as fun as it had been thisafternoon. Maybe a little bit more fun because the night changed everything intonew, rich colors.Alice took off with us on her heels, heading due north. It was easier to follow thesound of her feet whispering against the ground and the fresh path of her scentthan it was to keep my eyes on her through the thick vegetation.At no sign I could see, she whirled and dashed back to where I paused.“Don’t attack me,” she warned, and sprang at me.“What are you doing?” I demanded, squirming as she scrambled onto my backand wrapped her hands around my face. I felt the urge to throw her off, but Icontrolled it.“Making sure you can’t see.”“I could take care of that without the theatrics,” Edward offered.“You might let her cheat. Take her hand and lead her forward.”“Alice, I—”“Don’t bother, Bella. We’re doing this my way.”I felt Edward’s fingers weave through mine. “Just a few seconds more, Bella.Then she’ll go annoy someone else.” He pulled me forward. I kept up easily. Iwasn’t afraid of hitting a tree; the tree would be the only one getting hurt in thatscenario.“You might be a little more appreciative,” Alice chided him. “This is as much foryou as it is for her.”“True. Thank you again, Alice.”“Yeah, yeah. Okay.” Alice’s voice suddenly shot up with excitement. “Stop there.Turn her just a little to the right. Yes, like that. Okay. Are you ready?” shesqueaked.“I’m ready.” There were new scents here, piquing my interest, increasing mycuriosity. Scents that didn’t belong in the deep woods. Honeysuckle. Smoke.
    • 351Roses. Sawdust? Something metallic, too. The richness of deep earth, dug up andexposed. I leaned toward the mystery.Alice hopped down from my back, releasing her grip on my eyes.I stared into the violet dark. There, nestled into a small clearing in the forest, wasa tiny stone cottage, lavender gray in the light of the stars.It belonged here so absolutely that it seemed as if it must have grown from therock, a natural formation. Honeysuckle climbed up one wall like a lattice, windingall the way up and over the thick wooden shingles. Late summer roses bloomed ina handkerchief-sized garden under the dark, deep-set windows. There was a littlepath of flat stones, amethyst in the night, that led up to the quaint arched woodendoor.I curled my hand around the key I held, shocked.“What do you think?” Alice’s voice was soft now; it fit with the perfect quiet of thestorybook scene.I opened my mouth but said nothing.“Esme thought we might like a place of our own for a while, but she didn’t wantus too far away,” Edward murmured. “And she loves any excuse to renovate. Thislittle place has been crumbling away out here for at least a hundred years.”I continued staring, mouth gaping like a fish.“Don’t you like it?” Alice’s face fell. “I mean, I’m sure we could fix it updifferently, if you want. Emmett was all for adding a few thousand square feet, asecond story, columns, and a tower, but Esme thought you would like it best theway it was meant to look.” Her voice started to climb, to go faster. “If she waswrong, we can get back to work. It won’t take long to—”“Shh!” I managed.She pressed her lips together and waited. It took me a few seconds to recover.“You’re giving me a house for my birthday?” I whispered.“Us,” Edward corrected. “And it’s no more than a cottage. I think the word houseimplies more legroom.”“No knocking my house,” I whispered to him.Alice beamed. “You like it.”
    • 352I shook my head.“Love it?”I nodded.“I can’t wait to tell Esme!”“Why didn’t she come?”Alice’s smile faded a little, twisted just off what it had been, like my question washard to answer. “Oh, you know… they all remember how you are about presents.They didn’t want to put you under too much pressure to like it.”“But of course I love it. How could I not?”“They’ll like that.” She patted my arm. “Anyhoo, your closet is stocked. Use itwisely. And… I guess that’s everything.”“Aren’t you going to come inside?”She strolled casually a few feet back. “Edward knows his way around. I’ll stopby… later. Call me if you can’t match your clothes right.” She threw me a doubtfullook and then smiled. “Jazz wants to hunt. See you.”She shot off into the trees like the most graceful bullet.“That was weird,” I said when the sound of her flight had vanished completely.“Am I really that bad? They didn’t have to stay away. Now I feel guilty. I didn’teven thank her right. We should go back, tell Esme—”“Bella, don’t be silly. No one thinks you’re that unreasonable.”“Then what—”“Alone time is their other gift. Alice was trying to be subtle about it.”“Oh.”That was all it took to make the house disappear. We could have been anywhere. Ididn’t see the trees or the stones or the stars. It was just Edward.“Let me show you what they’ve done,” he said, pulling my hand. Was he obliviousto the fact that an electric current was pulsing through my body like adrenaline-spiked blood?
    • 353Once again I felt oddly off balance, waiting for reactions my body wasn’t capableof anymore. My heart should have been thundering like a steam engine about tohit us. Deafening. My cheeks should have been brilliant red.For that matter, I ought to have been exhausted. This had been the longest day ofmy life.I laughed out loud—just one quiet little laugh of shock—when I realized that thisday would never end.“Do I get to hear the joke?”“It’s not a very good one,” I told him as he led the way to the little rounded door.“I was just thinking—today is the first and last day of forever. It’s kind of hard towrap my head around it. Even with all this extra room for wrapping.” I laughedagain.He chuckled with me. He held his hand out toward the doorknob, waiting for meto do the honors. I stuck the key in the lock and turned it.“You’re such a natural at this, Bella; I forget how very strange this all must be foryou. I wish I could hear it.” He ducked down and yanked me up into his arms sofast that I didn’t see it coming—and that was really something.“Hey!”“Thresholds are part of my job description,” he reminded me. “But I’m curious.Tell me what you’re thinking about right now.”He opened the door—it fell back with a barely audible creak—and steppedthrough into the little stone living room.“Everything,” I told him. “All at the same time, you know. Good things and thingsto worry about and things that are new. How I keep using too many superlativesin my head. Right now, I’m thinking that Esme is an artist. It’s so perfect!”The cottage room was something from a fairy tale. The floor was a crazy quilt ofsmooth, flat stones. The low ceiling had long exposed beams that someone as tallas Jacob would surely knock his head on. The walls were warm wood in someplaces, stone mosaics in others. The beehive fireplace in the corner held theremains of a slow flickering fire. It was driftwood burning there—the low flameswere blue and green from t